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House and Senate Budget Would Boost TIF, Charters

Remember that long-delayed fiscal year 2010 spending bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives, and by the Senate Appropriations Committee, both in July?

The measure was never considered by the full Senate, but December is crunch time, so a House and Senate conference committee decided to skip that step last night and approved a compromise version of the bill. Now the measure is expected to be voted on by the full House and full Senate so it can go to President Obama for his signature.

If you've been following our coverage, you probably know that one of the main issues in the president's fiscal year 2010 education budget request is that it would have cut Title I grants to districts by $1.5 billion and, instead, steered $1 billion to Title I School Improvement Grants. Those grants are aimed at helping states and districts turn around schools struggling to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It's up for debate whether the administration's proposal could be considered a cut to Title I, since the program got $10 billion in the economic-stimulus package, spread over fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The Senate also included a cut to Title I over the regular fiscal year 2009, but steered some extra money to a $700 million new school construction program, not school improvement.

In any case, the compromise bill rejects both the administration's idea and the Senate plan and would provide $14.5 billion for Title I grants to districts, about the same level as in fiscal year 2009, so no cut, but no major boost either. And it would fund the school improvement grants at the same level as fiscal year 2009, which is $546 million.

The measure also would provide $400 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund, which doles out grants for performance pay programs. That's less than the $487 million the administration wanted, but a huge boost over the $97 million the program got last year.

The bill would also include $256 million for charter schools, a $40 million boost over last year, and $250 million for Striving Readers, a secondary school literacy program. Instead of just serving adolescents, the program would be comprehensive pre-K-12.

It also includes $50 million for an initiative to boost high school graduation rates, which would be a brand-new program. And there's $11.5 billion for state grants to help educate students in special education.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

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