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Do 'Unhidden' Data Give Glimpse of '09 Budget?

At some point during January, someone downloaded a spreadsheet from this link on the Department of Education Web site. The document contains every state's allocation under the department's state-grant programs, dating back to fiscal 2001. But this curious Excel expert clicked on a button to "unhide" data, and PRESTO: A new column appeared. It included estimates for fiscal 2009.

Through the magic of e-mail, the spreadsheet started flying around Washington. Just about every Capitol Hill aide with an interest in education appropriations has seen the numbers, one source tells me. And plenty of people in the lobbying community have looked it over. A tipster e-mailed me the "unhidden" data yesterday. (Don't bother trying this yourself now. Someone at the department discovered the mistake and re-posted a spreadsheet without hidden columns.)

No one I've talked to has asked the department whether the numbers are the ones that will appear in the president's budget, which is due out on Monday. They guessed no one in the department would tip their hand. (I decided to ask the press shop and am still waiting for an answer.)

People I've talked to say the numbers appear to be authentic. Programs President Bush has favored in the past would get increases, while some he has proposed to eliminate in the past have a '0' in their columns. Programs for which Mr. Bush has proposed nominal increases in the past would receive similar increases, according to the spreadsheet.

The air of authenticity doesn't guarantee that these numbers are going to be in the budget the White House sends to Congress. Everything in the spreadsheet could be old data that the Office of Management and Budget rejected long ago.

The mysterious spreadsheet includes data from state grant programs. There are no numbers from competitive grant programs.

Here's a quick summary:

Reading First would be restored to $1 billion. That's the amount it received in fiscal 2007, before Congress whacked it down to $393 million.
Title I grants to schools districts would increase $406 million, or 2.9 percent, to $14.3 billion.
Special education grants to states would increase $337 million, or 3.1 percent, to $11.2 billion.
Teacher quality grants under NCLB's Title II would decrease $100 million, or 3.4 percent, to $2.8 billion.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities would be cut down by $194.8 million, or 66 percent, to $100 million.

The 21st Century Learning Centers also would receive a significant cut, falling 26 percent from $1.28 billion to $800 million. This number raises an interesting question. Is this the president's $800 million proposal for the 21st Century Learning Opportunities program? (See this White House document.) The proposal would give parents money to pay for after-school and summer programs designed to improve student achievement. Faith-based providers would be eligible to receive the money. It looks as if the Bush administration wants to end the current program and replace it with a new one giving money to parents.

Some programs that would be eliminated:
Career and Technical Education ($1.16 billion)
Tech-Prep Education ($102.9 million)
Educational Technology ($267.5 million)
Even Start ($66.5 million)

On Monday, we'll see how accurate these figures are.

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