Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Lawmakers Trade Barbs during Budget Debate

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Lawmakers Trade Barbs during Budget Debate

Article excerpt

It's role reversal time in Congress, and some Democrats are not happy about it.

Democrats find themselves on the defensive this year as Republicans take shots at President Bill Clinton's higher education budget. College lobbyists also are unhappy with the president's spending blueprint and are finding a welcome ear in the House GOP leadership.

This effort culminated in early May as House leaders pushed through a resolution recommending increases throughout the student financial aid network, including a $400 boost in the maximum Pell Grant-three times the increase in the Clinton budget.

But the resolution prompted criticism from some Democrats, who warn the GOP is playing a shell game by offering higher education increases while planning to cut K-12 education programs under the Republicans' strict budget limits.

"We should go on record for increasing our overall investment in education, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Rep. William Clay CD-Mo.), a Congressional Black Caucus member and senior Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee.

"We are being asked to vote on a resolution that would aid freshmen at the expense of first graders," he said during debate. "We believe that is an unwise, inappropriate choice."

The Clinton administration also is quick to seize on a possible K-12/higher education standoff. Despite reserving funds for higher education, the overall Republican budget provides $3 billion less for the federal budget category with education, employment, and human service programs, says Education Secretary Richard Riley. Factor in the GOP's planned higher education increases, he says, and other programs may face significant cutbacks.

"The president's balanced budget plan is fully paid for," says Riley, who adds that it provides some increases at every level from preschool to college. But the GOP plan, if enacted into law, "would mean devastating cuts in other programs for children."

Rep. William Goodling (R-Pa.), chairman of the House education committee, counters that Republicans simply want to target existing high-priority programs instead of creating the many new K-12 programs favored by the president.

"Again this year, President Clinton has proposed new education programs that will help his administration meet its political and public relations goals while neglecting the real needs of students and educators," he says. …

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