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House Passes Another Temporary Freeze for K-12

The budget battle that never seems to end continued today, with the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill, by a vote of 271 to 158, that would fund federal government, including most K-12 programs, at fiscal year 2010 levels for another three weeks while Congress tries to pass a long-term funding measure. The U.S. Senate is expected to approve the measure this week.

This spending bill expires April 8 and is for fiscal year 2011, which technically started back on Oct. 1. The government has been operating under a series of stopgap measures since then.

This would be the sixth extension (!) and lawmakers are promising to make it the last. As in, "We either come up with an agreement that will work for the rest of the fiscal year, or we shut down the government."

If you'll recall, just a few weeks ago, Congress passed a two-week stopgap measure that cut more than $4 billion in government spending and elminated a number of education programs, such as the $250 million Striving Readers program, $67 million Even Start family literacy program, as well as cutting money for the National Writing Project, Teach for America, and other programs.

This latest bill doesn't restore the funding for those programs. Instead, it makes another $6 billion in cuts. But, this time, none of the money would come from the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, there's just one education-related cut: a $125 million career pathways program in the U.S. Department of Labor.

But while education is clear from any further cuts for three weeks, it's definitely not out of the woods. Republicans and Democrats have very different visions on K-12 spending.

The House previously passed a bill for the remainder of fiscal 2011 that would have slashed more than $5 billion from the U.S. Department of Education, plus $1 billion from Head Start. The Senate rejected that measure; Democrats had sought, but failed to get, modest increases for key education programs.

President Barack Obama yesterday said he doesn't want to see any cuts to education at all. But Republicans say the cuts are needed to put the nation on firmer fiscal footing and that more money doesn't necessarily equal better student outcomes.

So now, Congress has three weeks to reach some sort of agreement on K-12 spending, not to mention the rest of the federal government.

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