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House Committee Hears Testimony on President’s Education Priorities

On February 11, Secretary of Education Rod Paige outlined President Bush’s FY2005 budget for education before the House Budget Committee.

In his opening statement, House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle (R-IA) lauded the budget proposal, saying, “Budgeting is about choosing priorities. I noticed that the President’s budget calls for the elimination of some small programs that it considers to be lower priority. It also calls for a $1 billion increase for [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] IDEA. I think that this is the right idea. We’ve got to choose priorities.”

Secretary Paige highlighted a number of programs that would receive increased funding in FY2005, including grants to local educational agencies under the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110), the Pell Grant program, and the Reading First program. He explained that the new Jobs for the 21st Century initiative would include $220 million to improve the reading and math skills of secondary students who are performing below their grade level; $1 billion for the Secondary and Technical Education State Grants program that would coordinate high school and technical education; and $12 million to increase the number of states implementing rigorous high school programs of study in order to prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. Secretary Paige concluded, “Nearly 50 years have passed since the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision. In the years that followed, we found that educational access did not automatically produce educational equality. We still have much work to do to ensure that a high-quality education is available to all students. I believe the No Child Left Behind Act is the logical step to the Brown decision. The best way to eliminate racial inequality in our society is to close the achievement gap.”

Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, George Miller (D-CA), also testified at the hearing. He stated that the FY2005 budget “demonstrates that this administration does not view education as a priority” because it would cut funding for a number of programs, including initiatives to reduce alcohol use among teenagers and to reduce the number of school dropouts. “It is not enough to proclaim yourself the ‘education president,’” he argued. “You need to provide leadership and make the decisions that strengthen our schools, eliminate the achievement gap, and make college affordable.”

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