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House Bill Calls for Eliminating 43 Education Programs

Forty-three education programs would be scrapped under a bill introduced today by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy. For background, read this post.

"It's time to trim the fat," Hunter said in a statement. "Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—43 wasteful K-12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can't read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first."

Among the programs the bill would eliminate are Striving Readers, the Even Start Family Literacy Program, and the National Writing Project.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., a senior committee member and former chairman, are co-sponsors.

The bill is the first in a series of measures the House will consider in coming months to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Kline has said he wants to break the task into bite-sized pieces, rather than do a big, comprehensive bill.

The Obama administration didn't comment on the specifics of the bill, but applauded Kline for moving forward on ESEA reauthorization.

"We're eager to sit down with the House and fix NCLB immediately, because kids can't wait, and we're running out of time to meet the president's deadline of having a bill to sign by the start of the next school year," said Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The programs on the chopping block in the bill essentially fall into five categories.

Programs that lost their funding in the most recent budget bill: That list includes the Even Start Family Literacy Program, Enhancing Education Through Technology, Striving Readers, the National Writing Project, Smaller Learning Communities, Reading is Fundamental, Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, and others.

Programs that President Obama proposed for consolidation: Includes Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Teaching American History, School Leadership, and Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse.

It's important to note that, while Obama and the committee both think these programs aren't as effective as they could be, they had very different approaches to what to do with them. Obama wanted to funnel the money into broader funding streams. For instance, the School Leadership program would have become part of a bigger pot aimed at improving teachers and leaders. This bill would eliminate the program to save taxpayer dollars, not repurpose the funds.

Programs not recently funded: Includes Community Technology Centers, Bilingual and Emergency Immigrant Education Program, Star Schools, Early Reading First, Comprehensive School Reform, and the Ready to Teach Grant Program.

Programs Never Funded: Includes Combating Domestic Violence, Teacher Mobility, and Healthy, High Performance Schools.

Programs that lawmakers see as duplicative or not really an appropriate federal role: Includes Physical Education, Arts in Education, and the Foreign Language Assistance Program.

The elimination of some of these programs doesn't seem likely to spark a mega smackdown on the floor of the House. For instance, I doubt too
many folks will be protesting in the streets because the bill would get rid of the Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian, and Whaling Partners programs (which basically just funds grants in Alaska, Hawaii, and Massachusetts) or Special Education Teacher Training (which sounds like a big, broad program that touches everybody, but is actually just a $100,000 earmark for the University of Colorado.)

But others might be much dicier. Lots of folks were upset about the elimination of Striving Readers in the recent budget bill, including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee. It's tough to imagine him being happy to see it taken off the books forever. And Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is a huge fan of the National Writing Project. It's not likely he'll be thrilled about the program losing its authorization.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., is already vowing to work for dedicated funds for school libraries, another of the programs scrapped under the bill.

"Senator Reed is working with his colleagues to maintain a dedicated funding stream for school libraries and ensure they are integrated into our education reform efforts," said Chip Unruh a spokesman for Reed. "Absent federal funding for school libraries, the goal of ensuring that all students are career and college ready will suffer."

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