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House K-12 Spending Bill Would Scrap Race to the Top

The Obama administration's signature K-12 initiative—the Race to the Top competition—would get axed under a proposal put forward by Republicans on the House panel that oversees K-12 spending.

Two other major Obama priorities—the School Improvement Grant program, which provides $533 million to help turn around low-performing schools, and the nearly $150 million Investing in Innovation grant program—would also be eliminated, according to a press release put out by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

The spending bill was introduced today by Republicans on the House subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related agencies. It would cover fiscal year 2013, the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1. The panel is expected to vote on the legislation tomorrow.

But it looks like not all of the administration's favorite programs would be big losers. The bill appears to renew two new competitive-grant programs. One is Promise Neighborhoods, which helps communities pair wraparound services with education programs. Promise Neighborhoods would get nearly $60 million, the same level as last year. That's not as much the $100 million President Barack Obama wanted for the program.

The measure also would renew the nearly $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which provides grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs. And it would keep in place a nearly $160 million comprehensive literacy program.

So which program would win out big-time? Special education state grants, which would get $12.1 billion, a $500 million increase over current levels. By contrast, Title I would get $15.1 billion, the same level as last year. The Obama administration had proposed flat funding for those programs this year.

Head Start, one of the absolute favorite programs of the panel's chairman Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., was another rare winner. The early childhood program would get $8 billion, a $45 million increase over its current level.

Another winner? Abstinence education, which would get $20 million, a $15 million increase over last year's funding.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved its own version of the fiscal year 2013 spending bill. And there are some big differences. The Senate version would keep Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, SIG, and other key Obama initiatives, while providing some very modest boosts for Title I and special education.

This isn't the first time House Republicans have attempted to jettison many of the programs on the Obama administration education-redesign hit parade. Last year, the committee also proposed scrapping Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, SIG, and other programs. But, the Democratically-controlled Senate—and the administration—ultimately won out in budget negotiations.

So when we will know the outcome this year? Probably not until after the presidential election. It's unlikely that Congress will actually finish its work on the bills before that deadline—it's become tradition for them to pass stop-gap measures extending funding until they can work out a deal.

That means that if Obama isn't re-elected—or if Republicans take over the Senate—it's going to be much much tougher for programs like Race to the Top and i3 to survive the chopping block.

Want more? Check out the full draft bill right here.

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