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House GOP Looks to Slash Education Spending

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House Republican leaders put out a bill Friday night that would slice and dice education funding far below current levels and far below what President Barack Obama wanted in his never-enacted fiscal year 2011 budget request. (List of cuts is here.)

The measure, which would continue federal funding for rest of the fiscal year, takes aim at some programs that were previously considered untouchable, including special education spending and Pell Grants to help low-and-moderate income students pay for college. Overall it would cut $4.9 billion from the U.S. Department of Education's fiscal year 2010 budget of $63.7 billion.

"This absolutely would be the largest cuts ever in history for education programs," said Joel Packer, a principal with the Raben Group in Washington, who works with the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition that advocates for increasing education spending.

The bill would cover fiscal year 2011, which technically started back on Oct. 1. Most of the federal government, including the Education Department, has been funded at fiscal year 2010 levels through a series of stop-gap measures, the latest of which expires on March 4.

It's tough to imagine the administration swallowing these cuts. And it's unlikely they'll get through the Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said in a statement:

The GOP approach "would knock the legs out from under our nascent economic recovery, kill jobs, and do virtually nothing to address the long-term fiscal crisis facing our country. Try as they might to convince the American people otherwise, it is simply not possible to balance the budget by targeting 15 percent of federal spending—no matter how deep the cuts are."

But Republicans say the cuts are needed to get the nation's fiscal house in order. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement:

Lawmakers "have weeded out excessive, unnecessary, and wasteful spending, making tough choices to prioritize programs based on their effectiveness and benefit to the American people. My committee has taken a thoughtful look at each and every one of the programs we intend to cut, and have made determinations based on this careful analysis."

Packer said he expects that the two chambers will have a tough time even agreeing on another stop-gap measure. That could spell a government shutdown, he said.

Under the GOP proposal, Title I would be cut by $693.5 million. It's not clear if that means just Title I grants to districts, which got $14.5 million in fiscal year 2010, or if the cut would also effect Title I School Improvement Program, which got $545 million in fiscal 2010.

Special education, which is typically a Republican priority, would be cut by $557 million, below its $11.5 billion funding in fiscal 2010.

Head Start was targeted for the one of the biggest reductions: a $1 billion cut below fiscal 2010.

And Pell grants would be cut as well, resulting in an $845 cut to the maximum per-student grant of $5,550.

GOP lawmakers also didn't find any new money for the administration's top priority, the Race to the Top 2.0. The administration had asked for $1.35 billion to continue the competitive grant program begun under the economic-stimulus package, and last calendar year, Congress had been poised to provide some of that money. Plus, there would be no money for another round of the Investing in Innovation grant program. The administration had originally asked for $500 million to continue i3, another stimulus-funded initiative.

The Obama administration in its fiscal 2011 budget had proposed consolidating smaller programs into broader funding streams. For instance, smaller literacy programs would have been combined into a big competitive fund aimed at improving reading and writing.

But, under the House bill, those programs would be scrapped entirely, including:

• Even Start Family Literacy program: $66.5 million

• Mathematics and Science partnerships: $180 million

• Striving Readers program: $250 million

• The Obama administration's $50 million high school graduation initiative, which is a fairly new program

• Literacy Through School Libraries: $19 million

• Education Technology State Grants: $100 million

• Foriegn Language Assistance: $26.9 million

• The National Writing Project: $25.6 million

• Ready-to-Learn Television: $27.3 million

• Civic Education: $35 million

• Elementary and Secondary School Counseling: $55 million

• Smaller Learning Communities: $88 million

• Tech Prep State Grants: $102 million

• Teacher Quality Partnerships: $43 million

Even some prized education reform programs with deep political connections would be slashed:

• New Leaders for New Schools would be cut by $5 million.

• Teach for America would lose its $18 million appropriation.

• The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards would lose its its $10.6 appropriation.

Also on the chopping block:

• 21st Century Community Learning Centers would get cut by $100 million. And two college access would be cut: TRIO by almost $25 million, GEARUP by $19.8 million.

So who would come through unscathed? The Teacher Incentive Fund, which helps districts create pay-for-performance programs, and got $400 million in fiscal year 2010. Charter schools, which got $256 million in fiscal 2010. And Teacher Quality State Grants, which got $2.95 million in fiscal 2010.

The bill is expected to go to the floor of the House next week. Packer said some GOP lawmakers could introduce amendments making even further cuts.

Confused? This Republican budget proposal is for fiscal year 2011, which actually started way back on Oct. 1, 2010. President Barack Obama will release a budget proposal Monday that will cover fiscal year 2012, which starts on Oct. 1, 2011.

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