World and Nation

Trimmed Bill Still Offers Vast Sums for Education

The economic stimulus bill that is expected to win passage in the Senate on Tuesday would provide about $83 billion for child care, public schools and universities.

That is a lot less than the $150 billion voted by the House, but would still account for a vast increase in the federal share of the nation’s education spending.

If the bill passes the Senate, tough bargaining can be expected later this week between House and Senate negotiators over the Senate’s decision to eliminate all of $20 billion in direct financing of school renovation, and over its trim of $40 billion from the House’s proposed $79 billion stabilization fund for states, much of which would be spent on schools and state universities.

The stabilization fund is intended to help states and school districts meet payrolls as tax revenue plummets in the recession. The 50 states and Puerto Rico, which on average spend roughly a third of all revenue on education, are facing budget shortfalls totaling some $132 billion this fiscal year and next, according to a report issued on Jan. 30 by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that the $39 billion in aid to states proposed in the Senate bill was “not nearly as much as we need.” Addressing an audience of college administrators, Duncan said a forthcoming University of Washington study estimated that “almost 600,000 education jobs are at risk of state budget cuts.”

The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers proposed unprecedented levels of education spending in both the House and Senate stimulus bills. And even after cuts made Friday by a bipartisan group led by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the Senate bill would still provide $80 billion in emergency spending for public schools and state universities, well above the Department of Education’s current $59 billion discretionary budget.

Both the House and the Senate would hugely increase spending on Title I, a program of specialized classroom efforts to help educate poor children, and on education for disabled children.

The House bill would raise Title I spending over two years by $13 billion; for the current fiscal year, spending would rise to $20 billion from about $14.5 billion. The two-year increase in the Senate bill would be $11.4 billion. Both the House and Senate bills would also increase federal spending on special education by $13 billion over two years.

Spending on Pell Grants, the most important federal program of aid to college students, would also rise. The House bill would raise Pell spending to $27 billion this year, from about $19 billion. The Senate version would increase it a bit less.

Aside from their differing levels of aid to the states, the two bills differ most strikingly in school modernization financing, with the House legislation’s $20 billion unmatched by any money in the Senate version.

On Sunday, Lawrence H. Summers, director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, called such financing “absolutely essential.”