News Release

Education Spending: Beyond the Rhetoric

This evening, Laura Bush is scheduled to give the keynote address to the Reach Out and Read national conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following analysts on education policy are available for interviews:

EDWARD KEALY
Executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of over 100 educational organizations, Kealy said this afternoon: “The president has stated that the goal of his education policies would be an America where ‘no child is left behind.’ But measured against growing needs and expectations, President Bush’s 2002 education budget request falls short. When inflation and enrollment growth are considered, the president’s budget contains only a minimal increase for education and leaves many important programs cut, frozen or with inadequate resources. His budget does not meet the serious challenges facing education, such as his own call for greater accountability, or match the level of investment the American people demand. When adjusted for the effect of $2 billion in advance appropriations for 2002 made last year, President Bush’s budget increases funding for education program levels from $42 billion in 2001 to $44.5 billion in 2002, an increase of $2.5 billion or 5.9 percent. This differs significantly from the widely reported $4.5 billion, 11.5 percent increase that results when previous advance appropriations are included. Part of what Sen. Jeffords was pointing out when he declared himself an independent and tipped the balance of power to Senate Democrats was that education — and special education in particular — was not getting adequate funding in the Bush budget. He noted the disconnect between rhetoric and the funding reality. Only 2 percent of the federal budget is for education. We need at least 5 percent.”
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ARNOLD FEGE
Director of communications and public engagement for the Public Education Network, Fege said this afternoon:”The Bush administration has been getting a PR spike because of its rhetoric on education, but is not putting its money where its mouth is. Everyone wants kids to read, and there’s a crisis around low-income kids. The administration has touted its proposed funding of the Reading First Initiative at $900 million — this is an outgrowth of the Clinton Reading and Literacy Grants, which had been at $280 million, so that’s a substantial increase. However, there’s a much larger program — Title I, a $10 billion federal program — but the administration is only asking for a 4.5 percent increase in that program, which has been chronically underfunded; about one-third of all the schools that would be eligible under the law actually get the money because such programs are funded below what they were initially authorized to do. In essence, the educational expectations set by Bush do not match the resources he is willing to commit. Putting money in reading programs without increasing funding for class size reduction, school construction, technology, library materials and special education is like trying to increase the weight of the animal without feeding it.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167