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Education takes hits in Bush budget
by Jessica Wehrman
Scripps Howard News Service


February 07, 2005

Washington - President Bush's proposed budget would eliminate or consolidate funding for 48 education programs, including ones to teach about the Underground Railroad and promote school safety.

Fifteen of the 48 programs cost $5 million or less, and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said, "It's hard to get critical mass for a national program in 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories with small amounts."

The focus instead, she said, has been putting money in a pot of funding aimed at beefing up the educational quality for high schools, as well as boosting Pell Grants.

Among the funding cuts in education programs in Bush's proposal:

  • $1.19 billion for vocational education state grants. The funds would be redirected to a new program aimed at improving high school education.
  • $2.2 million to provide grants to non-profit educational organizations that teach about the Underground Railroad, the network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada before the Civil War. The Education Department said the program has achieved its purpose.
  • $312.6 million for Upward Bound, which gives disadvantaged high school students grants for academic instruction. The administration says it's shifting some of the money to a larger high school intervention initiative that would provide "a more comprehensive approach to improving high school education."
  • $437.4 million from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants - money that will in part go to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Programs instead. The latter program goes from $234.6 million to $317.3 million under the president's request. The administration argues the state grant program has been ineffective.

School safety expert Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services said despite the shift, a cut is still a cut.

"At a time when we're protecting our bridges, monuments and the halls of Capitol Hill with greater funding, it absolutely baffles me how anyone inside the Beltway can propose cutting any funding for school safety," he said.

Also on the chopping block: $94.5 million for grants to create smaller learning environments within large schools.

"All of the data I've looked at demonstrates kids do a lot better academically and socially in smaller learning environments," said former Rep. Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat who got that provision into the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Hill said the administration has tried to eliminate it every year since then. This year, administration officials cited a decrease in applications and argued that there is a "lack of compelling evidence" on the program's effectiveness.

Richard Sterling, executive director of the National Writing Project, remains hopeful that friends in Congress will keep Bush's proposed $20 million cut to the National Writing Project from becoming a reality. The program promotes training teachers in writing.

"We believe they think well of the project," Sterling said of administration officials. "We hope there is a reconsideration of it."


E-mail Jessica Wehrman at WehrmanJ(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service

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