Budget Talk: A Proposed $3.1 Billion Cut to the National Education Budget Has Educators, Associations and Politicians Talking

By Pascopella, Angela | District Administration, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Budget Talk: A Proposed $3.1 Billion Cut to the National Education Budget Has Educators, Associations and Politicians Talking


Pascopella, Angela, District Administration


ANOTHER YEAR, another budget, another fight. Educators are saying, and congressmen are agreeing, that the federal education budget proposal of $54.4 billion for 2007 is just not good enough.

The Bush administration's fiscal year 2007 budget proposes the largest cut to federal education funding in the 26-year history of the Education Department--a $2.1 billion reduction, a 3.8% cut below last year. But Bush is requesting $136 billion over 10 years for the American Competitiveness Initiative, which would emphasize math instruction from early grades and ensure high schools offer more challenging coursework. The math and science initiatives are a $326 million increase over the 2006 amount, a 51 percent increase.

But National Education Association President Reg Weaver calls on Congress to draft a budget that ensures better schools for children.

"Congress has the responsibility to draft a smart budget," Weaver states. "We believe strong, pro-public education lawmakers such as Rep. Ralph Regula and Sen. Arlen Specter will take seriously--like NEA--the president's call for American competitiveness and restore our nation's education priorities to the final bill."

Specter, chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, states that the proposal will require "substantial modifications by the Congress."

"It is scandalous to provide insufficient funding for our nation's two greatest capital investments: health and education," Specter says.

An office aide for Regula, who did not want to be identified, says that the Ohio representative, also chairman of the education appropriations subcommittee, is mindful of education costs and how to stay competitive, but Bush's proposed budget falls short. In his testimony before the House Budget Committee in February, Regula stated that the Nation's Report Card results, released last fall, revealed the number of fourth graders who learned fundamental math skills increased by 235,000--enough to fill 500 elementary schools.

"Despite the record gains, Mr. Chairman, much work remains," he said. "High quality public education has assumed a much greater significance in the context of our rapidly changing world and the emergence of new technologies. Where oceans and mountains once limited trade and the rapid transmission of ideas, as Tom Friedman tells us in his book The World is Flat, technology has flattened our world and made borders more permeable to products and highly skilled labor."

Now, a well educated workforce is vital for national competitiveness, Regula stated. Since 1980, the number of science and engineering jobs has grown at more than four times the rate of the U.S. labor force, which Bush's proposed budget tries to answer. The proportion of foreign-born students in science and engineering fields is rising dramatically. Global competition for science and engineering talent is intensifying, such that the U.S. may be unable to rely on the international science and engineering labor market to fill needs, Regula says.

Competitiveness and Improvement

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is also disappointed, saying cutting education funding by more than 3 percent won't meet the goal of increasing competitiveness, "let alone accomplish our ultimate goal of ensuring that our students are knowledgeable, motivated, healthy and engaged." And Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, says the proposed budget indicates that high school improvement is no longer a priority. "By introducing a slightly revised set of initiatives that he proposed to pay for with the same program cuts that were disregarded by Congress last year, President Bush is offering false hope to millions of American students," the alliance states. …

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