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Department of Education Fares Well in Budget Deal

Several programs were cut in late budget compromise, but key initiatives remain.

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With a new budget deal approved at the last minute, Republicans and Democrats were finally able to compromise to prevent a government shutdown. Some education programs will be cut, but Democrats were able to protect some key initiatives from the budget ax.

Funding for the Department of Education was cut to $68.5 billion, down only $1.3 billion from 2010. The original bill sought to cut the department's spending by about $10 billion.

Key eliminations include Educational Technology State Grants, which sought to make all students technologically literate by the end of eighth grade; Literacy through School Libraries, which provided up-to-date materials for school libraries; and the Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, which provided scholarships to gifted high school seniors. Those cuts amounted to $161 million.

School improvement grants will be cut by $10 million, and funding for Teaching American History, which trained U.S. history teachers, will be cut from $119 million to $46 million.

But it's not all bad news. President Barack Obama scored a big win by securing $700 million for his Race to the Top program, which provides money to states that develop common testing and score reporting standards, improve teacher and student performance, and turn around struggling schools. Originally, no money was set aside for Race to the Top, although Obama had proposed $1.35 billion for the program.

Title I grants, which provide money to school districts with high poverty rates, will be provided at 2010 levels, and money set aside (but not spent) for Striving Readers, a program that provides remedial reading classes for underperforming middle and high school students, will not be rescinded.

Teacher incentive funds that pay K-12 teachers bonuses for working in and turning around poorly-performing schools, and Pell grants to help students pay for college in the 2011-12 school year, will also be maintained, although students will only be allowed to get one Pell grant per year, down from two.

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