Appropriations Process Underway for Education Department Programs Today, the House is scheduled to begin floor debate on its FY 2001 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees marked up their versions of the Labor- HHS-Education bill last month. In both bills, it appears that teacher professional development in science and math would receive at least as much as the current appropriation, but actual funding levels are not clear. Currently, $250 million is set aside for science and math professional development within the Eisenhower Professional Development State Grants program; the Administration is seeking to increase that amount to $300 million for fiscal year 2001.
The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its bill (S. 2553) on May 11. This bill would increase funding for the entire Eisenhower program from the current level of $335 million to $435 million. It seems possible that the set-aside for science and math education within this program would also grow from its FY 2000 level of $250 million, but that is not spelled out explicitly.
The intent of the House version of the bill, H.R. 4577, is also to provide at least the current amount of funding for science and math teacher professional development. Some sources expect the House to ultimately increase it from $250 million to $300 million, but that is not clear from the bill language. This appropriations bill ties its funding levels to House-passed legislation to reauthorize the Department of Education, which would ensure that science and math professional development receive at least as much as it is now getting.
There is a problem with the House appropriators' approach, though: At this point, the effort to reauthorize Education Department programs has bogged down in the Senate and appears unlikely to be enacted this year. It is not obvious what will happen on the House appropriations bill if new reauthorization legislation is not in effect.
While congressional leaders hoped to move the appropriations process along quickly this year, partisan disagreements in the Senate have thrown a monkey wrench into the process. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has forced the Senate to abide by rules which require it to wait until the House has passed each appropriations bill before the Senate can take it up. Thus the Senate Labor-HHS bill must languish, awaiting floor debate, until the House completes debate on its version. After both chambers have passed their bills, a House-Senate conference committee must meet to reconcile differences in the bills and produce a final version.
Another hurdle for Labor-HHS appropriations is that President Clinton has threatened to veto both House and Senate versions, for a number of reasons. In addition to concerns over health care and job training funds, the White House opposes combining Clinton's plan to hire 100,000 new teachers with other programs to improve teacher quality, as both bills do. Last year, disagreement between Congress and the Administration led to the Labor-HHS bill being incorporated into a larger, catch-all omnibus bill far into the new fiscal year. Although Congress hopes to adjourn early because it is an election year, similar difficulties may face this year's bill.
Audrey T. Leath