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Cuts Threaten Education Programs

by Black Issues

Cuts Threaten Education Programs

WASHINGTON — Across-the-board cuts in federal programs may hamper vital college programs, including the U.S. Department of Education’s ability to process student-aid applications for grants and loans, the Clinton administration warns.
In the latest salvo over the 2000 federal budget, Democrats and agency officials complain that a 1 percent, across-the-board cut endorsed by Republicans could affect core education services, such as student aid processing and the massive Title I K-12 education program. Republicans already have approved the 1 percent cut as the best way to trim bureaucratic excess and meet budget targets.
“This ill-conceived, insensitive bill faces swift death at the hands of a veto by the president,” says Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., a Congressional Black Caucus member and senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The 1 percent cutback “undermines some of the most vital government services,” he says.
Clay and other Democrats object to other GOP provisions that would scale back the growth of the “Gear Up” program, the new federal initiative to put at-risk middle school students on course toward college.
The government just funded the first round of those grants in August. If enacted into law, the Republican plan would prevent 131,000 low-income students from receiving Gear Up programming, Democrats say.
The 1 percent cutback also could mean delays in the timely processing of student aid applications, says U.S. Sec. of Education Richard W. Riley, who complains that would chop $279 million from the agency’s budget.
That large of a cut would “directly impact services to schools and students,” Riley says.
Another stumbling block on the spending bill is a K-12 class-size reduction initiative authored by Clay with backing from the White House. Congress last year provided $1.2 billion as a first step to hire new teachers and reduce class sizes, but this year, GOP leaders have proposed no funding. Many new initiatives to improve K-12 education are either “eliminated or underfunded,” Clay says.
Despite harsh criticism of the plan, however, Republicans have used their latest budget blueprint to reward some higher education activities, including programs for Black colleges. The GOP plan contains a $5.5 million increase for the government’s main historically Black colleges and university program, for funding of $141.5 million next year. HBCU graduate institutions also would receive a $1 million increase to $31 million in 2000.
In an effort to show support for Hispanic students, Republicans also agreed to the Clinton administration’s request for a significant increase in a new program for Hispanic-serving colleges and universities. Those institutions would receive $42.5 million, up from $28 million in 1999. Tribal colleges and colleges serving Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives also would receive small gains.
Other college programs to win more funds under the GOP bill are college work-study, up $64 million; Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, up $2 million; TRIO, up $45 million; and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, up $21 million.
The Republican plan also favors a $175 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, to $3,300 next year. That level is higher than the administration’s own Pell grant request, which set a top grant of $3,250 for the most needy students.   

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