Congress passes spending bill that works for students

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by Colleen Flaherty

The U.S. House of Respresentatives passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill Wednesday evening, which was sent to the Senate and passed there on Thursday. The bill will determine spending for the next two years and hopefully avoid the bitter partisan battles that have hurt students and families.

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“While not perfect, the bill takes positive steps in charting a pathway from the damaging austerity approach of recent years,” said Arizona teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The bill puts students in poverty, children with disabilities and those most in need of extra help ahead of politics.”

There are several positive spending initiatives for the nation’s students, especially the most vulnerable:

  • 57,000 children lost seats in Head Start thanks to sequestration. Now, Head Start funding is fully restored, and Early Head Start will receive an additional $500 million.
  • Title I and IDEA grants are 86 percent restored from sequester level cuts.
  • $250 million was set aside for Early Childhood grants.
  • Other programs devastated by sequestration have now been restored, including Impact Aid, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, TRIO, GEAR Up, Math and Science partnerships and Education for Homeless Children and Youth.
  • Perkins Career and Technical Grants are 94 percent restored.
  • Sequestration eliminated $1.5 billion from the National Institutes of Health budget, slamming research in college and university labs. But the proposed budget adds $1 billion to the NIH budget, and also restores some funding for the National Science Foundation.
  • The bill maintains funding for Pell Grants, the grants used by the nation’s poorest college students. The number of recipients is expected to grow from 9.1 million to 9.3 million. At the same time, the federal Work-Study Program also would get an additional $49 million.

“We welcome almost full restoration of Title I and IDEA grants, full restoration of Head Start funding and funds for expanding pre-k programs,” said Van Roekel. “This investment in early childhood and in students from low- and moderate-income helps put students on path to success in school and life.”

The bill has been sent to President Obama and is expected to be signed into law.

Reader Comments

  1. All this will help, even though it does not get us back to where we were, which was not an ideal position. As a former teacher and parent, I am very concerned about those college students “stuck in the middle” as well. The emphasis on top and bottom is important, but middle class families often do not qualify for many aspects of financial aid, and instead end up with those huge student debts. College needs to be accessible and affordable for all to maximize the potential in our nation.

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