April 2008 Up Front

NEWS ANALYSIS

Bush budget provides disappointments, few surprises

Given the state of the economy, the ongoing war, and the Bush administration’s ideological stances on issues such as school vouchers, the proposed $60 billion federal education budget has few surprises, but a number of disappointments.

Bush’s last spending plan for education anticipates the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, asking for a $406 million increase for Title I and a $330 million increase for special education services. But in a year in which overall funding is flat, 47 programs are on the chopping block, including ones that encourage arts in schools, provide mental health services to students, and offer career and technical education.

“Obviously, cuts are difficult to make,” Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings told the Associated Press. “But I think this is a responsible budget that sets priorities and that is aligned with the core mission and the core focus of No Child Left Behind.”

The cuts add up to $3.3 billion, which would allow Congress to restore $600 million in funding to Reading First, a program that serves low-income children. Also, the president is seeking $300 million for private school vouchers that would help low-income students transfer out of failing schools, and a $100 million increase for merit pay for teachers who boost test scores.

All three programs have been staunchly supported by the Bush administration, but have met with opposition in Congress. Reading First has come under fire for conflicts of interest and mismanagement. Vouchers have been repeatedly rejected by congressional Democrats who have refused to fund private schools with public dollars. And the merit pay plans are opposed by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association because of their tie to test scores.

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