Democrats Blast Education Plan
Education, once a model for bipartisanship, looked more like a battlefield as President Bush released his budget proposal to Democratic discontent.
The plan calls for two significant spending increases for education: a boost in the size of Pell grants, to help needy students pay for college, and $24.5 billion for No Child Left Behind (NCLB)a 41 percent increase since 2001. In a statement, the administration called the 2002 law, up for reauthorization this year, Bush's "top education priority for 2008."
But Democrats and education groups said the increases were not enough. Both Sen. Edward Kennedy, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. George Miller, who chairs the equivalent House panel, support NCLB but have said the law needs a significant funding boost to help states meet its demands. Bush's budget, they said, would not fulfill those needs.
"For too long, the president has failed students, teachers, and parents, who are holding up their end of the bargain," Miller said in a statement. "It's too bad the president isn't holding up his."
Kennedy pointed out in a statement that Bush's budget allocates $1.5 billion less for education than what the House presented in a fiscal 2007 budget. That misses the law's initial promises by $14.8 billion, he said. Kennedy also criticized the budget for funding its increases$1.2 billion to the Title 1 fund, mainly targeted at high schools, as well as $300 million for a voucher planby cutting 40 smaller programs.
"Our schools and children deserve more than accounting gimmicks," Kennedy said, urging Congress to "reject the president's NCLB budget proposal and provide new resources to carry out the law."
Two teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, also criticized the president's budget. So did some bipartisan groups, including the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Center on Education Policy.
"I think it will make it more difficult to get [reauthorization] done," said Joel Packer, the NEA's director of education policy and practice. "It's not serious. It's not really showing an investment in these programs."