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Harkin: Bush Budget Fails Education, Leaves Students and Educators Behind


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds education initiatives, today criticized President Bush for failing to propose a federal budget that provides needed resources for beneficial education programs.  The President’s budget would cut federal education spending by $2.1 billion.

“A budget is a moral document, and the President’s budget flunks the most basic moral test,” said Harkin.   “It calls for literally hundreds of billions in additional tax cuts, with the lion’s share going to those making more than $1 million a year.  And it calls for deep cuts to programs that our most vulnerable citizens depend on for their very survival.”

Education Facing Deepest Cut in 26 Years

The President’s budget makes the deepest cuts in education in history, at a time when schools are struggling to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. And this comes on the heels of a $600 million cut in FY06 – the first cut in a decade.

“It looks to me as if this administration has basically given up on the three programs that matter most to the nation’s students – Title I, IDEA, and Pell,” said Harkin.

Title I and IDEA

The President substantially under funds the No Child Left Behind Act.  His budget leaves behind 3.7 million students — including about 18,000 in Iowa — who could be fully served by Title I if the program were funded at the level the President promised in the NCLB Act.

For many Iowa schools, this latest cut is just another deficit on the heels of a three year shortfall in Title I funding.  A new analysis shows that two-thirds — 248 of  367 — of Iowa’s districts received less Title I money this school year than they did three years ago (A listing of this information is available upon request).

 “Title I is the cornerstone program for the NCLB Act,” said Harkin.  “It is the program that targets aid to the students who are most at risk of failing.  That’s why NCLB calls for a $2.2 billion increase for Title I this year.  But how much more does the President ask for?  Zero.  It is flat funded.”

The president also comes up short on after school programs, funding them at less than half the amount recommended in the NCLB Act. As a result, 10,000 at-risk Iowa students who should receive after school services will have to go without.  Since NCLB’s enactment, the Bush Administration has underfunded NCLB programs by a total of $55.7 billion.

The Bush Budget also shortchanges students with disabilities by providing a smaller share of states’ total costs for special education for the second year in a row. In FY05, the federal government provided 19 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure toward the costs of special education.  This year, FY06, it went down to 18 percent.  Next year, under this budget, it would go down again, to 17 percent.  As the federal share goes down, states and local districts will have to pick up more of the tab.

 “This administration has not only given up on funding for students with disabilities, it’s actually moving in the wrong direction,” said Harkin.

Bush Budget Makes College Less Affordable

This administration has also given up on student aid.  Under the President’s budget, the maximum Pell Grant award would be frozen at $4,050.  This is the same level as four years ago.

“I don’t think there are any colleges in America that charge the same amount for tuition that they did four years ago,” said Harkin.  “It gets tougher and tougher all the time for low- and middle-income families to afford college, but this administration doesn’t seem to care.”

Among some of the initiatives slated for elimination is the Upward Bound program that provides grants to colleges to help disadvantaged high school students succeed in college.  Additionally, the President’s much-hyped $1.5 billion High School Initiative is more than offset by $2.1 billion in cuts to similar education initiatives like vocational and adult education.

In all, the budget zeroes out 42 programs.  Some of these programs include education technology initiatives, state grants to keep schools safe and drug-free, smaller learning communities, alcohol abuse reduction, school dropout prevention and dozens of other education initiatives.

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