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House Lawmakers Vote to Spare IDEA; Cut SIG, Teacher Money

Good news and bad news for fans of education spending.

The good news: The U.S. House of Representatives just voted to restore the $557.7 million cut to special education state grants in the fiscal year 2011 spending bill now under consideration on the House floor (you know, the one that will finance the government through Sept. 30 and cuts nearly $5 billion in education funding). The grants would stay funded at their current level of $11.5 billion.

The money was put back through an amendment, offered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. Her three-year-old son, Cole, has Down Syndrome, so this is a very important and personal issue for her.

The bad news: To offset that cut to special education, the amendment would cut $336 million out of the $545.6 million Title I School Improvement Grant program, and $500 million out of the $2.95 billion Improving Teacher Quality State Grant program.

The Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying coalition, sent around a letter yesterday urging Congress to reject the amendment because, even though it liked the increase for IDEA, the amendment would result in a bigger cut to education programs overall than the original bill. My guess is the Obama administration won't be too be happy about this tradeoff, either, especially because SIG is one of its top priorities.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Here's a snippet from a letter McMorris Rodgers sent to her colleagues yesterday, urging them to support the provision:

>In 1975, Congress promised states and school districts it would pay 40 percent of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to meet its full obligation under IDEA, providing just 17 percent of the guaranteed funding. Our amendment would increase funding for the Part B (Grants to States) program under IDEA by $557.7 million, restoring funding for the program to the FY2010 levels. It is fully offset by reducing funding to the Teacher Quality State Grant program and the School Improvement Grant program, two programs that have received substantial funding increases since 2009.

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