Obama: Spare education from budget cuts

Touting the success of his administration’s Race to the Top (RttT) program in spurring widespread education reforms in states across the nation, Obama said RttT “should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.”

That might not resonate with some Democrats, who hear from school leaders they are concerned that a shift from formula-based funding to more competitive grant programs will leave many poorer school districts behind.

But it’s the Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives who present the biggest roadblock to Obama’s proposals.

“We face a crushing burden of debt,” said Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan in the official Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union speech. “The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.”

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House Republicans have passed a resolution setting appropriations for the rest of the year at 2008 pre-recession levels, as part of a pledge to cut $100 billion from the budgets of domestic U.S. government agencies.

The vote is largely symbolic, because the actual cuts would have to be made in appropriations bills that would have to clear the Senate, where Democrats still hold a majority. However, it sets up a showdown in which members of both parties will have to convene to hammer out a compromise—and education might not be spared from the cuts that result.

“There are no sacred cows,” said newly appointed House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

Any cuts to federal spending on education or infrastructure would come at a particularly bad time for local communities, many of which already face the prospect of steep cuts in state funding.

A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, released last month, says the fiscal crisis reshaping the level of services that government can deliver is likely to last at least another three years for many states.

So far, budget deficits are anticipated for at least 15 states, the report said. Among the hardest-hit states are California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.

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