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A Leaner Year is Proposed for Schools


WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 Although President Bush called in the State of the Union address for a major new commitment to improving math and science instruction, his budget for the coming year would cut the Education Department's discretionary budget to $54.41 billion from $55.92 billion in the current fiscal year.

The loss would follow more than $624 million in cuts to the department's budget last year. And of 141 programs across government that the administration is proposing to eliminate, 42 are in the Education Department, the largest concentration of programs that would disappear of any agency. Among them are vocational education and several programs totaling nearly $1 billion to improve the college prospects of disadvantaged students.

"The budget shows that Bush's talk about increasing competitiveness is phony," said John F. Jennings of the Center on Education Policy, a nonprofit group. "The amount isn't there. It's just like he's done with a number of other things, a big splashy speech aboutcompetitiveness, lots of applause and then he doesn't provide the money to the schools to meet the demands."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said thepresident's commitment to education remained strong. She said most of the programs slated to end were small, with half costing under $25 million a year. Some would be replaced by larger initiatives that would serve the same purposes, but bear his stamp and reflect his priorities, she said.

As part of his American Competitiveness Initiative, the president's budget sets aside $250 million for improving math instruction through 12th grade, along with $122 million to train math and science teachers to lead Advanced Placement courses, up from $32 million in 2006. Though not part of the Education Department budget, the initiative also doubled federal research grants in the physical sciences, while spending on biomedical research remains flat.

The single biggest item in the Education Department's budget, Title I grants to high-poverty schools, would increase by $200 million, but that money would go exclusively for school restructuring under No Child Left Behind. For the remaining schools, the money would remain flat, and 29 states would see their Title I allotments decline.

The budget also proposes $100 million that students in some underperforming schools could use to attend religious or secular private schools. A similar proposal in last year's budget failed to pass in Congress.

— Diana Jean Schemo
New York Times


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