Pell Grant Increase Is Major Victory for College Lobbyists
With the presidential race now settled, congressional Republicans and President Clinton reached agreement on a federal education budget for fiscal 2001 that includes more money for Pell Grants and many other education programs.
But education advocates did not get all they wanted. In fact, the overall package is $3.6 billion less than a prior budget agreement that almost became law in October.
The Pell budget is a major victory for college lobbyists. Overall, the new budget would provide a $450 increase in the maximum grant, to $3,750 next year. This amount is $250 more than the president’s original budget request for 2001.
The October budget package reportedly had an increase of $500, so budget cutters did gain some ground in the final negotiation. However, lobbyists had worked hard throughout the summer and fall to secure a gain larger than the one in the president’s original budget.
Elsewhere, federal TRIO programs would receive an $85 million increase, to $730 million in 2001. This figure is similar to the president’s request, but it is about $30 million less than the agreement originally negotiated in October.
“The Grinch is at work on Capitol Hill,” says Bob Chase, National Education Association president, about efforts to limit education spending.
Overall, the new budget for education, human service and employment programs totals $109 billion — more than $3 billion below the figure negotiated in October. However, conservatives in the House of Representatives derailed that budget at the last minute, and some members had argued for continued confrontation. However, many political leaders — including President-elect George W. Bush — had urged the parties to come together for a 2001 budget before Clinton leaves office.
“It has been a long difficult process, but in the end we believe we’ve struck a responsible balance between increasing funding for such priorities as education and medical research, without overburdening the American taxpayer,” says Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Many details of the $109 billion budget are not yet known, including funding for historically Black colleges and smaller higher education programs. However, most lobbyists expect that federal support for HBCUs will increase in 2001, based on the tone of recent negotiations. The final budget covers thousands of federal education, health and labor programs.
Members of Congress did disclose other big-ticket items in the new budget, including a $933 million increase for the Head Start program that covers poor preschoolers. With that increase, the program would get $6.2 billion in 2001. Congress also agreed to provide $1.6 billion for class size reduction initiatives at the K-12 level; this figure is about $127 million less than the president’s request.
With President-elect George W. Bush set to reclaim the White House for the GOP, some conservatives had argued against reaching any type of education budget deal with Clinton. Republican negotiators also had used this threat to push for cutbacks from the more generous education budget proposal on the table in October.
Education programs had operated with only temporary funds since the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year because of the ongoing budget impasse. Partisan sniping increased dramatically after the Nov. 7 election, making it difficult for the two sides to negotiate a final budget deal.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com