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FYI Number 128: October 17, 2001

Progress on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bills

Much attention has been focused recently on conferees' attempts to reconcile competing versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (H.R. 1, known as "ESEA"), which will reform many Department of Education programs. Significant progress has also been made in the last two weeks on the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which provide the actual funding for these programs. The appropriators were generous with education funding on the whole, but the House and Senate appropriations bills vary greatly on how much funding they would provide for initiatives to improve science and math education.

Now that the White House and congressional leaders have agreed upon an additional $4 billion above the budget resolution for education programs (see FYI #124), appropriators have moved rapidly. The full House passed its Labor-HHS bill, H.R. 3061, on October 11. On the same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its bill, S. 1536. Once the full Senate passes its bill, a conference committee will meet to agree upon a final version.

Of particular interest to the science community is funding for the improvement of science and math education. Within the Department of Education, this was previously addressed by the Eisenhower program, which provided money for teacher professional development. Last year, Eisenhower funding was $485 million, with $250 million set aside specifically for professional development in science and math. This year, the Eisenhower program has been eliminated, with teacher professional development consolidated with other programs into a larger category entitled "Teacher Quality." As for specific funding for instruction in science and math, both the House and Senate appropriations bills include money for a new initiative, the Math and Science Partnerships, which would provide competitive grants to partnerships of university math or science departments, state education agencies, local school districts, and possibly other partners, to improve math and science education (see FYI #80). The partnerships can support teacher professional development but also a range of other activities; therefore, appropriations for the partnerships cannot be compared directly to last year's Eisenhower professional development math and science set-aside of $250 million.

For FY 2002, the House appropriations bill calls for the partnerships to receive funding of between $476 million and $635 million.

For FY 2002, the Senate appropriations bill would only provide $25 million for the partnerships.

In the Senate Appropriations Committee's report accompanying its bill, the committee acknowledges the value of improving the performance of students and teachers in the areas of math and science, but does not indicate why the recommended funding level is significantly lower than the House's mark. According to a Senate appropriations staffer, the committee hopes to see the amount increased in conference.

Appropriators in the House followed the House-passed version of ESEA in designating how the partnerships would be funded: states are directed to award between 15 and 20 percent of the Teacher Quality funds they receive "on a competitive basis to eligible partnerships for math and science programs." Of the total amount of $3.175 billion to be distributed among the states for Teacher Quality funding, this means that between 15-20 percent, or $476- 635 million, would be available for the partnerships. This tracks closely with the funding levels recommended in the House version of ESEA.

Senate appropriators followed the Senate-passed version of ESEA in designating that the Math and Science Partnership funds be awarded as competitive grants by the Secretary of Education rather than by the states, but while the Senate ESEA bill would authorize $900 million to be used for the partnerships, the Senate Appropriations Committee would only provide an appropriation of $25 million for them.

The full Senate is expected to take up the Labor-HHS bill next week, but things are uncertain on Capitol Hill these days. It has just been reported that the House will remain closed all this week for security reasons.

Accompanying H.R. 3061 and S. 1536 are the Appropriations Committees' reports, explaining their funding recommendations. Relevant portions of the committee reports will be provided in FYI #129.

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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