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House Passes Fiscal Year 2009 Spending Bill

The House of Representatives just passed the $410 billion fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill, which eliminates the Reading First program and provides boosts for other education programs that would seem modest, but really aren't when you add in the dizzying figures in the economic stimulus package, which covers fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

The omnibus bill was approved on a vote of 245-178. Democratic leaders have been sitting on this bill for months, waiting for a Democratic president to sign it.

The measure includes:

- $11.5 billion for special education.

- $15 billion for Title I, which includes $648 million for school improvement.

- $97 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund.

- $7.1 billion for Head Start.

- $1.1 billion for after-school programs.

Rep. John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican, House Minority Leader and former chairman of the House education committee, railed against language in the bill that he said makes it clear that this is the last year Congress will provide funding for the D.C. Scholarship and Opportunity Program. He called that provision "hideous" and said it was done in secret.

And Republican members lambasted the earmarks in the bill.

Democrats had bragged that the stimulus was earmark-free, but that's not the case with the omnibus measure.For instance, after Congress just had a big fight over whether the federal government should be paying for school facilities, the bill directs $1.5 million in funds from the Education for Native Hawaiians program to be used for modernization, construction, and repair of schools that primarily serve native Hawaiian kids.

One of the most influential lawmakers in the appropriations process is Sen. Daniel Inouye, who just happens to come from Hawaii.

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