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House CR Passage Signals Bumpy Road for Regional Education Labs

Early Saturday, the House approved GOP-backed appropriations for fiscal year 2011 that slashed several research and other education programs, including the regional educational laboratories network. The Washington-based Knowledge Alliance, which represents the labs, is hitting the Senate side this week, while Congress is in recess.

"The key is what will happen in conference," Jim Kohlmoos, Knowledge Alliance president, told me. With little time for a conference between the two houses before the current continuing resolution runs out March 4, lawmakers are expected to pass at least one more budget extension before finalizing the fiscal year 2011 appropriations. "What has been gratifying is the bi-partisan support for the RELs in the Senate and even in the House, but RELs are caught in the middle of larger political dynamics," Kohlmoos said.

Advocates will be pushing to install the President's fiscal year 2012 proposal, which would provide $70 million for the regional labs, a million-dollar loss but the best they can hope for at this point. If the President's proposal for FY 2012 goes through the comprehensive assistance center network would be level-funded at $56 million and the research, development and dissemination grants bumped $60 million, to $260 million.

The education labs have been on shaky ground since the last continuing resolution in December, which through a technical mistake did not include funding for them. The Senate already has passed a stand-alone temporary fix
through the Education Sciences Reform Act, which authorizes extending the current education lab contracts for another 12 months, but the House has not introduced a matching bill.

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