WASHINGTON - Taking one of the first whacks at future federal spending, the Republican-run House Education and the Workforce Committee voted 23-16 on party lines May 25 to eliminate 43 elementary and secondary education programs. Many haven't been funded for several years or were eliminated or consolidated in Democratic President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the year starting Oct. 1.
But enough of them received cash in this fiscal year so that by the time the panel got done, $397 million in future education funding - for the next fiscal year - was killed, according to figures gleaned from a committee program-by-program fact sheet.
The nation's two teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, had no immediate comment on the panel's cuts. And committee chairman John Kline, R-Minn., said the panel's trims were not the last word, as it will work through a series of bills dealing with education funding and programs, possibly substituting those for a rewrite of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind act.
The education bill, HR 1891, "is an important first step" to "reduce the federal government's footprint in K-12 classrooms and ensure taxpayer dollars aren't wasted on unnecessary, inefficient elementary and secondary education programs," Kline said. He added that the panel's decision was based on "testimony from superintendents, state officials, and myriad school administrators," notably omitting teachers.
"Many of these folks expressed frustration with the magnitude of federal education programs, some of which, school officials told us, offer very little benefit despite imposing significant regulatory burdens," Kline stated.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., called the programs the panel killed - about half of those the Education Department runs - "inefficient, redundant and unnecessary."
Many programs the panel killed duplicate programs targeted for low-income students, the committee's fact sheet contended. Several were "earmarks" to specific institutions. The GOP - responding to Tea Party zealots - vows to kill all earmarks.
One that died went to a Colorado university for special ed. teacher training. Another went to the non-profit Council for Economic Education. A $27 million arts education program was eliminated because it duplicates other programs and because it contains an earmark for the Washington, D.C., Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Others the panel killed included a dropout prevention initiative - the panel said it duplicates other programs - and Reading Is Fundamental, which was one of at least half a dozen programs that the GOP zeroed out in the spending bill for the current fiscal year.