The House of Representatives unveiled a budget plan on Thursday that would eliminate 31 education programs and tighten eligibility for Pell Grants. Two key formula programs would receive huge increases: Title I grants to districts for education disadvantaged kids would receive $1 billion more, for a total of nearly $16 billion. Also, the bill increases special education funding by $1.2 billion, to $13.7 million.
Education programs that are big priorities of the Obama administration would receive no new money. These programs include:
- Race to the Top competition, which got $700 million this fiscal year.
- Investing in Innovation Fund, which got $150 million.
- Promise Neighborhoods, which got $30 million.
- School Improvement Grant program, which got $534 million.
Programs that the proposed bill would eliminate include a $27.2 million program for the arts in education, a $45.9 million program for teaching American history, the $78.8. million Carol M. White Physical Education program and a $43.4 million program for Advanced Placement. In addition, a program called State Grants for Improving Teacher Quality — a principal source of funding for class-size reduction, professional development and similar initiatives — will have its $2.5 billion budget trimmed from $24.7 million.
In regard to higher education spending, the House bill maintains a maximum Pell grant of $5,550 but — in attempt to reduce costs by $3.6 billion in the next year alone — tightens eligibility criteria. Lifetime eligibility for Pell Grants will now be 6 years, down from 9 years. Students who attend school less than half time or students who do not have a high school diploma or GED will not be eligible.
Furthermore, the House bill would end aid to institutions serving Latino/a and black students. Spending on Latino/a-serving institutions would be cut by 83 percent and on historically black colleges by 36 percent. Two vocational-rehabilitation programs and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, or Fipse, would also be eliminated.
EdWeek points out that the House bill is very much in contrast to a spending measure that passed the Senate Appropriations committee earlier this month. The Senate measure included funding for nearly all the 31 programs slated for elimination as well as the Obama administration’s initiatives, but none of the increases for Title I and special education. Rep. Denny Rehberg, Republican of Montana and chairman of the House Appropriations panel that oversees education, has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill and when he will do so is unclear.
As the mother of a autistic teenager, and a mother who has spent too much of the past decade in contention with our school district over our son’s educational needs, it is heartening to see a bill that includes a significant increase in funding for special education and disappointing that the Senate bill does not provide for such.
But the changes in funding for Pell Grants and for institutions serving Latino/a and black students are worrisome.
A report released on Friday by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center has found that college graduation rates for Latino/a students are less than half the national average. The study was conducted in 2009 and found that only 19.2 percent of Latino/a students between the ages of 25 and 34 had earned a two- or four-year degree, compared with 41 percent nationally. A report by Complete College America released last Tuesday has found that some 40 percent of black full-time students earn a four-year degree in six years and about 46 percent of Latino/a full-time students earn a four-year diploma in six years. When enrolled part time, six-year college completion rates for black and Latino/a students decline significantly, to about 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
There is no question that more funding is very welcome for students who are disadvantaged (under Title I) and students with disabilities (who qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). There is also no question that college graduates have higher lifetime earnings; more and more future jobs will require not only a college degree, but a graduate one. Spending on education is an investment that we can’t afford to lose out on.
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