Proposed Two-Week CR Culls $890 Million from ED

March 1, 2011 | By Thompson Education | Post a Comment

(This post is excerpted from an alert to Thompson subscribers and was written by Charles Edwards, senior executive director for Thompson’s education products.) A two-week funding extension proposed by House Republicans last Friday would cut $4 billion, foreshadowing larger cuts expected in a subsequent bill covering the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

With the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government expiring on March 4, agreement about a short-term CR is necessary to avoid a shutdown.

The proposed two-week CR would terminate several small education programs that have been on presidential hit lists for years, as well as hundreds of earmarks for projects at local school districts across the country.  Altogether, funds culled from the U.S. Department of Education represent $890 million of the proposed savings in the bill.

The new CR would end March 18.

Program Terminations

A total of $468 million would come from education program terminations, including:

  • Striving Readers — $250 million. This program focuses on improving the reading skills of middle- and high-school students.
  • Even Start — $66 million. This family literacy program at one time reached $250 million in annual appropriations, but funding was slashed after evaluations deemed it ineffective.
  • Smaller Learning Communities — $88 million. This program established “learning communities” within large high schools to prevent student alienation and permit greater teacher engagement with individual students.  The House Appropriations Committee cites research casting doubt on its effectiveness.
  • Leveraging Educational Assistance — $64 million. This old program provides matching funds for states to establish need-based college aid programs, although that goal was achieved long ago.

Hundreds of Earmarks Gone

Another $2.7 billion would be derived by cutting hundreds of earmarks.

The legislation would cut $88,791,000 under ED’s “Innovation and Improvement” account that was earmarked for 282 individual projects in FY 2010, including many small projects in local school districts, nonprofits, Boys and Girls Clubs and colleges. Most were for no more than $100,000 or $200,000, with only three exceeding $1 million.

The biggest single cut would be $7.3 million for the Harkin Grant Program, a longstanding earmark sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate education appropriations subcommittee. The program funds school construction and renovation in Iowa.

Given both parties’ stated commitment to the elimination of earmarks, this may be just the start, although disappointed constituents may challenge that resolve.

Senate Democrats have yet to weigh in on the House Republican proposal, so the $4 billion in proposed cuts is by no means a done deal. But the package may be just the symbolic budget-cutting gesture needed to give both sides breathing room for the real negotiations to begin.

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