Politicians Hail Increases in Education Budget
Needy students of color will have a chance to obtain larger Pell Grants for college under new legislation President Clinton signed in December. The top federal Pell Grant will increase to $3,750 next year, up $450 from current funding as a result of the new bipartisan budget agreement between Congress and the White House. The figure represents a major increase for education advocates, who succeeded in getting the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and Clinton administration to go beyond funding recommendations they outlined earlier in 2000.
To pay for the increase, Congress and the White House added an extra $1 billion to the federal Pell Grant budget.
With Pell Grants and other major funding increases, the new budget package is “a landmark in the nation’s commitment to education,” says Education Secretary Richard Riley. House Republican leaders such as Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also hailed the agreement. The budget “will help to increase student achievement” while empowering schools to improve their services, said Goodling, who is retiring this month.
Here is how other programs fared under the new budget:
n TRIO: These college access programs will get an extra $85 million, or a 15 percent increase, in funding for 2001. As a result, TRIO will receive $730 million this year. The increase may be large enough to support new activities to encourage retention among first- and second-year college students.
The Clinton administration and advocates had proposed $35 million for these new retention programs, under which grantees would have the flexibility to offer more services and grants above and beyond the current Pell Grant maximum level.
n CHILD CARE: Low-income college students also will get a chance for more federal child-care aid under the new budget. The final agreement earmarks $25 million for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CAMPUS) program, a new program created under the 1998 Higher Education Act Amendments. This program had received only $5 million in 2000, but both colleges and the education department say the program’s funding fell far short of demand. As a result of the increase, the federal government will be able to offer more competitive program grants in 2001.
n GEAR UP: The two-year-old program that helps middle school youth get on track for college would receive $295 million, an increase of $95 million from year 2000 funding. The program won its gains largely through strong lobbying by the White House, which has identified GEAR UP as a high priority. The House and Senate had proposed much smaller figures, $200 million and $225 million, respectively, for the new fiscal year.
n COLLEGE WORK/STUDY: Funding will cross the $1 billion barrier, thanks to the Congress/White House agreement. The bill will provide $1.01 billion for the program, up from $934 million in 2000.
n SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANTS: The program will realize a 10 percent increase, from $631 million to $691 million, in 2001.
n LEVERAGING EDUCATIONAL
ASSISTANCE PARTNERSHIPS: This incentive grant program will get $55 million in 2001, a $15 million funding increase.
Colleges and universities also will get new funding to promote innovation through the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) budget. Hoping to spur innovation, Congress and the White House nearly doubled the program’s budget, from $74 million to $146 million, for 2001.
For K-12 education, the budget contains $9.5 billion for the Title I program, the government’s main avenue to assist disadvantaged students at the elementary and secondary levels. This amount is up $823 million from fiscal year 2000.
Another sign of compromise was on the issue of school construction and renovation, long a Democratic priority. For several years, President Clinton and Congressional Black Caucus members have sought a new federal program to support renovation of dilapidated school facilities. They finally prevailed in the 2001 budget, which reserved $1.2 billion for a program to be called school renovation state grants.
Funds would support emergency repairs to improve plumbing, heating and electrical systems as well as to meet fire and safety codes. The money also would support technology-related school construction activities.
“This was a very good next step,” Riley says of the construction funding and other increases, adding that additional funds will still be needed.
CBC members have long supported construction and renovation legislation. A bill on the subject co-sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a CBC member, drew more than 200 co-sponsors in Congress.
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