Relax, Teacher Incentive Fund fans: It doesn't look like the full House Appropriations Committee is going to make major changes to that education spending bill approved last week by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
The House Appropriations Committee today was debating the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, which finances the U.S. Department of Education and, as I'm sure you'll remember, includes a huge windfall for the TIF. Final passage wasn't expected until this evening, but it was mostly other congressional business, not education, that was holding up debate.
Under the bill, the TIF, the main federal performance pay program, would go from just $97 million to $446 million. That's a little under the President's request of $487.2 million, but still a huge windfall. And that's on top of the $200 million TIF got in the economic-stimulus package.
During the markup, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., the committee chairman, who has expressed skepticism about the TIF in the past, said that the program was the Obama administration's "highest priority."
But not everyone is so thrilled about the increase. Marc Egan, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, said he wishes the committee had instead boosted funding for one of the major formula grant programs, such as Title II, which helps states pay for teacher training, and Title I, which helps districts cover the cost of educating disadvantaged students.
The bill does contain a provision requiring the Institute of Education Sciences to perform a "rigorous evaluation" of the TIF program.
But Egan said he was "pleased" that the committee decided to restore a $1.5 billion cut to Title I grants to districts proposed in the president's budget. The Obama administration wanted to direct that money to school improvement grants, which help turnaround schools struggling to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. Instead, the committee decided to level-fund the school improvement grants at $545 million. The program received $3 billion in the stimulus package.
James W. Kohlmoos, the president of the Knowledge Alliance, a non-profit organization representing education researchers, said he was disappointed by the move, since he supports targeting a greater share of Title I resources to struggling schools. Still, he was happy to see that the committee boosted research and development to $199.2 million. That's a $32 million increase over fiscal year 2009, but not quite as high as the $224.2 million the Obama administration wanted.
The bill under consideration does make a few changes to the version marked up by the subcommittee last week. It restores funding for the $7.4 million Gifted and Talented Education program, which the previous version of the bill, and the Obama budget, sought to eliminate. And it includes an additional $3 million for the Innovation Fund, which was created under the stimulus and is meant to reward districts and non-profits that are raising student achievement. The Obama administration had asked for an additional $100 million for the program in its budget.
Other highlights: The bill includes $100 million for the Educational Technology State Grants, the same amount the Obama administration asked for, but a lot less than the $269 million the program got in fiscal year 2009. The grants got a huge boost in the stimulus, though, to the tune of $650 million.
And the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which finances after-school efforts, got $1.18 billion, a $50 million increase over the president's request. If you'll remember, advocates were pretty upset that the Obama administration level-funded the program.
Finally, the measure restored funding for the $66.4 million Even Start Family Literacy program, which the Obama administration had sought to scrap, also to the chagrin of many advocates.