Education Fares Better than Others in Proposed Budget Cuts

February 4, 2011 | By Thompson Education | Post a Comment

(This post was written by Charles Edwards, Thompson’s senior executive director for education products.) Taking the first official steps toward their promise of cutting spending for the current fiscal year, House Republican budget leaders released their official 2011 budget guidance yesterday. Although details have yet to be finalized, education aid would fare better under the proposed plan than federal agencies that subsidize housing, roads and rural development.

Domestic discretionary spending and foreign operations would take a $40 billion cut from 2010 levels, offset partly by an $8 billion increase for defense. No changes were proposed in projected spending for entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., set the overall figure for fiscal 2011. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., promptly subdivided the pain among the 12 appropriations subcommittees that actually will draft the detailed spending bills, beginning next week.

The subcommittee that handles the bill for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education actually came out pretty well, suffering only a 4 percent reduction for programs under its purview. The average cut was 9 percent, with certain departments, such as Housing and Urban Development and Transportation, facing cuts in the teens.

The appropriations subcommittees have the authority to shuffle spending among the programs in their respective bills, meaning that some programs could be cut even deeper than the average, while others might see increases. The Education Department (ED), for example, could be cut more or less than 4 percent, depending on how appropriators allocate funds among the departments and independent agencies grouped in the Labor-HHS-ED bill. Any cuts to state and local education aid would affect the school funds to be released this July 1.

This whole process is actually a holdover from the last congressional session, which failed to pass full-year spending bills for fiscal 2011 before the critical mid-term elections. Agencies have been operating under a long-term “continuing resolution,” which authorizes them to spend money at the same pace as the previous year. That resolution expires March 4.

There is a lot of work to be done before then. House leaders promise to bring their spending package to the floor by Feb. 14. It probably will be approved over Democratic objections, but then it goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will have its own perspective on the issue. Any compromise package then needs President Obama’s signature.

At the same time, the 2012 budget process is starting up, with Obama planning to present next year’s proposed budget the same day the House plans to first vote on the holdover 2011 budget.

The next month promises to be full of budget news. Thompson Publishing Group will keep you on top of developments affecting your education programs.

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