Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Education funding bill moves forward but Bush still promises veto:

The education appropriations bill for FY08, part of a spending bill that funds critical education, health care, and labor programs for the next fiscal year, was approved by the House-Senate conference committee last week. Despite being packaged with the spending bill for the Veterans Administration that the President supports, the bill (HR 3043) still faces a veto by Bush. The bill is slated for a House floor vote the afternoon of November 6 with the Senate to follow later this week.

The conference committee bill provides an overall increase for NCLB programs of $1.6 billion (+6.84%) compared to the current year’s funding.This is $601 million above the President’s request.

NCLB programs that would receive significant increases include the following:

* Title I grants: +$1.47 billion (+11.5%)
* Title I School Improvement Grants: +$375 million (+300%)
* Teacher Quality State Grants; +$150 million (+5.2%)
* 21st Century Community Learning Centers (After school program): +$100 million (+10.2%)
English Language Acquisition State Grants: +$54 million (+8%)
* Other education programs outside of NCLB that would receive significant increases include IDEA State Grants for special education: +$509 million (+4.7%) and Pell Grants for college students: +$837 million (+6.1%)

NEA Executive Committee member Marsha Smith said at a Capitol Hill news conference last week that Bush's threatened veto of the education bill "undermines the public's support for investing in our children and America's future." Smith, a long-time middle-school health and physical education teacher, offered a first-hand account of how budget decisions made in Washington affect everyday Americans, especially educators. She urged the President to work with Congress to pass a sensible and responsible spending bill that invests in children and public education.

If the President does follow through with his veto threat, the next steps are not clear. The current Continuing Resolution (used to fund the government programs if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the fiscal year) expires on November 16th, so Congress would have to extend that CR again.