Thursday, November 04, 2004


Special Request: Education Funding with Bush

The Connecticut PTA published data on Bush's 05 budget. As best I can tell, this is a leaning left group so we can look at their numbers with that caveat.

The proposed total for FY05 Department of Education discretionary spending is $57.3 billion, which is an overall increase of $1.7 billion above the FY04 total. If enacted, this would be the lowest percentage increase for education in nine years.

Here we have the essence of most liberal-democrat arguments about budget cuts. To them, a budget cut is not a decrease in the budgeted amount of money as compared to last year. A cut is actually less of an INCREASE than they wanted. There are many people out there saying that the Bush budget has cut education spending in his '05 budget. As noted above, this is not true - the education budget has increased by $1.7 billion. Also, note that this is the lowest increase in nine years. Let's see, nine years ago who was in the White House...oh yea...Clinton! By the way, nine years ago we were enjoying an economic peak. Today, we are still fighting off the economic disaster of 9/11, the Clinton second term recession, corporate scandals, and the cost of fighting a war in Iraq.

The administration proposes a Choice Incentive Fund, which would provide $50 million to states and cities for the creation of voucher programs and other programs that divert funds from public schools. This proposal, if enacted, would also reserve $14 million of these funds for a voucher program in the District of Columbia.

If we are going to support the voucher system we should pay for it. Also, schools which get funded based on attendance will need some time to improve to attract students with vouchers - this is covered too. Of course, the libs hate this too because they hate vouchers. I have not made up my mind on the school voucher system yet but nevertheless, many of the reports of the Bush '05 budget do not include the money for voucher programs.

The administration's proposed budget includes $218.7 million for new and existing charter schools. Of that sum, $18.7 million would provide states with matching funds to help charter schools obtain facilities. The budget also includes an additional $100 million for charter schools to acquire, lease, or renovate facilities.

Charter schools is another area largerly disliked by the libs. This is another part of the budget left out by some groups when calculating the total educational budget.

President Bush proposes a $1 billion increase for Title I grants to school districts, bringing the total to $13.4 billion. This increase is significant, but unfortunately the total funding is still more than $7 billion below the level authorized in Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, for FY05. In addition, even with the increased funding provided in recent years, the program only fully serves about 40 percent of all eligible children. More than $30 billion would be needed to provide full funding for Title I in FY05.

The no child left behind has attracted a lot of grief because it has been accused of being an unfunded mandate. The real issue with funding for NCLB is how much it would actually cost to fund it. This article claims that another $30 billion is needed to fully fund NCLB. This letter from Education Secretary Rod Paige states that the new budget fully funds NCLB.

The president's budget requests a $1 billion increase for IDEA state grants, bringing the total to $12.2 billion. This increase is a positive step for this program, but even counting last year's increase, the federal contribution for IDEA is about half of what was promised when IDEA was originally enacted in 1975. Full funding of the federal commitment in IDEA would require approximately $20 billion.

The president put a high priority on reading in his budget request for 2004
by proposing the following increases:

$100.1 million for Reading First state grants, which focus on comprehensive reading instruction in grades K-3.
$37.6 million for the Early Reading First initiative that aims to improve the school readiness of preschool-age children.

Hmmmm. More increases. What has been cut?

The FY05 budget request proposes a number of cuts to pay for its proposed increases, which would affect dozens of vital education programs. In addition, a number of programs are frozen at the same level as was provided last year. In effect, this is a cut because there is no new money to cover the costs of inflation, nor can the programs expand to serve new students who may be eligible.

Following are some of the largest cuts proposed:

21st Century Community Learning Centers, frozen
Impact Aid funding, frozen
Teacher Quality grants (which include professional development and the
former class-size reduction program), frozen
English-Language Acquisition (formerly bilingual education), frozen
Literacy Through School Libraries program, frozen
Rural Education, frozen

Here we go again with the idea that if you don't increase the budget, that is a cut. First this group thought we couldn't subtract nine from 2004 and determine that the last president to propose a smaller increase in education funding was Clinton, now they are trying to tell us that if you spend the exact same amount of money in 2004 and 2005 that you have decreased the amount of money spent. If this is the new math, I'm home schooling.

Here are the take home messages.

1. The education budged for the '05 year is an increase from '04.

2. If you spend the same as last year, you are not cutting the budget.
2a. An increase in spending to a level less than what other people want is an increase, not a decrease.

3. When you hear that certain programs have are underfunded, find out the source for the "full funding" number. We have seen that while one group claims that NCLB is under funded by $30 billion, the secretary of education states that is will be fully funded.

4. Most liberals hate vouchers and charter schools. Many liberal "watchdog" groups conveniently leave the amount of money budgeted to fund these programs out of the total education budget.

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