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Spending Bill Slashes Tech., Literacy, but Has Bright Spots

Lawmakers in Congress released the long-awaited details early this morning of a long-term spending bill to fund the federal government through September. The bill includes more than $38 billion in cuts. (See summaries here and here.)

It eliminates a number of education programs, including:

  • Educational Technology State Grants—$100 million.
  • Literacy Through School Libraries—$19 million.
  • Byrd Honors Scholarship Program—$42 million.

And it includes cuts to other education programs. For instance:

  • School Improvement Grants would be funded at $536 million, a $10 million cut.
  • Teaching American History would be cut by $73 million. The program is now financed at $119 million, so that's pretty significant.
  • The GEARUP and TRIO college access programs also would be cut. GEARUP, which got $323 million in fiscal year 2010, would lose $20 million. And TRIO, which got $910 million last year, would lose $25 million.

But there are some bright spots for education.

Although the bill doesn't restore the money cut from the Striving Readers comprehensive literacy program under last month's stopgap spending measure, it does leave untouched $189 million in leftover fiscal year 2010 funds, which haven't been distributed yet.

The bill also doesn't restore funding for any of the national earmarks eliminated under the recent stopgap measure, including Teach for America, the National Writing Project, or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. But it does slice off 1 percent of the funding for the roughly $3 billion Teacher Quality State Grants program to be used to create a competitive grant program which would give those programs the opportunity to compete for funding.

The administration got some of its priorities into the mix, including $700 million for a new round of Race to the Top, which will include a new initiative for early childhood education. The bill also includes $150 million for another round of the Investing in Innovation program (i3). And it would level-fund the Teacher Incentive Fund at $400 million.

Key education programs would be level-funded, including Title I grants to districts, which will get $14.5 billion, the same as last year. Pell Grants also would be level-funded, with the maximum staying at $5,550. But the bill eliminates year-round Pell Grants, a suggestion floated by the administration in its fiscal year 2012 budget request.

Overall, adjusting for Pell grants, the U.S. Department of Education would get $68.5 billion, compared to $69.8 billion last year.

The Head Start program got a $340 million increase, to $7.57 billion. House Republicans had sought to cut the program by $1 billion.

Lawmakers in both chambers are expected to vote on the bill this week.

UPDATE:
Promise Neighborhoods were another winner, getting $30 million under the bill, an increase of $20 million. And Texas got around a provision blocking the state from accessing edujobs money.

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