The U.S. Senate just voted 91-9 to send a bill that would keep the government running until March 18, while slashing about $4 billion in spending, including eliminating a number of education programs. President Obama is expected to sign it.
The bill would scrap all funding for the rest of the year for the $250 million Striving Readers program, and the $66 million Even Start program. The administration had wanted to see those programs consolidated into a new, broader, $383 million funding stream aimed at improving literacy. Now it appears there may be a lot less available money for that effort.
The measure would also get rid of all funding for the rest of the year for the $88 million Smaller Learning Communities program, which was slated to be funneled into a broader program aimed at improving educational options.
And it would scrap the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships, or LEAP, program, financed at $64 million.
The bill also would defund a lot of programs that are right now classified as “earmarks,” meaning money directed at one particular program or project. That includes a number of national education programs, such as Teach for America, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental, and the Close Up fellowship.
Yesterday, a group of 11 senators, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, sent a letter to the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee saying that these programs shouldn’t be lumped in with traditional earmarks, which are usually special pet projects lawmakers request just for their districts.
That’s not the case with the education programs, the senators wrote. “These programs are nationally structured, with many years of bipartisan support,” they said. “They benefit millions of individuals and families in a majority of states, districts, and regions throughout the country.”
But the letter may have arrived too late to make much of a difference, at least on this short-term bill. The measure the Senate passed includes the cuts.
The really tough part is just beginning. As you probably remember, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill recently that would finance the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. That measure included some major education cuts, $5 billion in all.