Five technology-specific programs totaling $144.5 million are among the 45 education programs scheduled for termination in President Bush’s 2004 budget request, which he sent to Congress Feb. 3.

Bush’s 2004 budget called for an overall increase of $2.4 billion in U.S. Department of Education (ED) funding, but at press time schools and colleges still were awaiting current-year funding as Congress continued to wrangle over the 2003 budget.

The president’s FY 2004 budget would cut several technology-specific programs such as Community Technology Centers ($32.5 million), Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology ($62.5 million), Ready to Teach ($12 million), Regional Technology in Education Consortia ($10 million), and Star Schools ($27.5 million).

These programs also were slated for the ax in Bush’s 2003 budget request.

Overall, the president’s $2.23 trillion budget for the 2004 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, provides $53 billion for ED—the “largest dollar increase for any domestic agency,” according to Education Secretary Rod Paige.

“But we also are proposing to spend our education dollars more wisely. In these times of tight budgets and accountability, we can no longer continue to fund programs that simply are not helping students achieve,” Paige said during a briefing with reporters.

Along with the proposed cuts, the president’s 2004 budget requests a $1 billion increase for Title I, $1 billion more for programs funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and a $1.9 billion increase for Pell Grants to help low-income students afford a college education.

“These three increases [constitute] about one-third of the new domestic discretionary dollars the president is seeking for his entire domestic agenda. No other domestic agency has three programs receiving such monumental increases,” Paige said.

When the $1.5 billion in cuts are factored in, the department’s overall budget would increase by $2.4 billion. Still, critics say this amount falls short of what is needed to meet the stringent demands of Bush’s signature education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

“There are so many requirements and demands for states that $1 billion [more] for Title I isn’t going to cut it,” said Jordan Cross, manager of advocacy for the Coucil of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Responding to these concerns, Paige said increased funding doesn’t seem to be the way to improve student achievement. Instead, he said, reform, flexibility, and local control are the solution.

Paige said previous administrations have tried to “fund [their] way out of these problems for many, many years” and yet achievement has remained flat. “We think the president’s funding request is adequate, in fact, sufficient to achieve the goals of [NCLB],” he said.

“This is about change, and sometimes the color of change isn’t always green,” added William D. Hansen, deputy secretary of education, who serves as ED’s chief operating officer and the principal adviser to Paige on programs, policies, management, and budget matters.

Paige touted the fact that all states had submitted their accountability plans by the Jan. 31 deadline as proof that NCLB can work. “Here and there you hear a little chattering, but state leaders are working hard to accomplish the goals of [NCLB],” he said.

Trudi Rishikof, a spokeswoman for the CCSSO, said the fact that all states submitted their accountability plans on time doesn’t mean they have enough resources to make the new law work. “You can’t say it’s a sign that [NCLB] is a success, but it’s a sign that states are committed to the law,” she said.

Ed-tech funding

Funding for the Education Technology State Grants program, which is now the primary source of federal funding for school technology, would remain $700.5 million under the president’s proposal—the same as in 2002 and 2003.

But if Bush’s other proposed cuts are enacted in either 2003 or 2004, funding for educational technology actually would decrease by $145 million, or 17 percent.

Bush administration officials contend the increased flexibility of NCLB means school districts can take funds earmarked for other purposes and apply them toward technology, if local school leaders so choose. The administration also says many NCLB programs can be applied toward school technology programs or purchases, even if they don’t target technology in particular.

Technology funds, on the other hand, also may be applied to other programs.

Here’s a summary of other key provisions in Bush’s 2004 education budget:

  • Title I: Bush is requesting $12.4 billion for Title I programs in 2004, which is $1 billion—or 9 percent—more than his 2003 request. Yet Democrats say this amount falls short of what NCLB actually authorizes for Title I in 2004 by some $6 billion.

  • Reading First and Early Reading First: For Reading First, Bush is asking for $1.05 billion, which is $50 million more than his 2003 request. For Early Reading First, he is requesting $100 million, an increase of $25 million.

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Funding for this program would be cut from $1 billion to $600 million under Bush’s proposal.

“The president proposed no new funding for teacher training programs, yet NCLB calls for a high-quality teacher for every classroom,” the National Association of Secondary School Principals said in a statement. “The budget cuts $400 million from before and after-school programs for high-poverty urban and rural communities, yet NCLB calls for using such programs to stimulate student achievement.”

Other programs slated for the ax include Arts in Education ($30 million), Dropout Prevention Programs ($10 million), Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Math and Science Education ($5 million), Elementary and Secondary School Counseling ($32.5 million), Rural Education ($162.5 million), Smaller Learning Communities ($142.2 million), and Tech-Prep Education State Grants ($108 million).

See these related links:

FY 2004 Education Budget Summary and background
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget04/04summary/index.html

President Bush’s Complete Budget Request for FY 2004
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004

Council of Chief State School Officers
http://www.ccsso.org

National Association of Secondary School Principals
http://www.nassp.org