When Roderick Paige was confirmed as U.S. Department of Education Secretary in January, he took over a department with a record budget of $42.1 billion for fiscal year 2001, up by 18 percent over 2000.
The U.S. Congress finally sent the last education appropriation bill of the Clinton administration to the President to sign in mid-December, well into the new fiscal year. Funding for class-size reduction was increased 25 percent to $1.6 billion, and funding was almost doubled, to $845 million, for 21st Century Learning Centers, now mostly after-school programs.
Up to 25 percent of the class-size reduction funds may be used for the professional development of teachers, an important provision for teachers in private schools, said Joseph McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education. He pointed out that when a public school district exercises this option, the funds are available on an equitable basis to teachers in private schools, too.
The appropriation bill included a 24 percent increase in funding for state grants for special education, a key priority for Republicans who contend the federal government has never adequately funded the programs required by its special education mandates.
That increase is good news for both public and private schools, noted McTighe. Students with special needs who attend private schools participate equitably in the federal portion of a school district’s spending for special education.
Despite a $1.3 billion increase in special education funding, lawmakers remain far from meeting Congress’s financial obligation to special education programs. Despite this, they allocated $1.2 billion to expand the federal government’s activities into a new area: school renovation.
Private schools with a poverty rate of at least 40 percent will be eligible for an equitable portion of a school district’s grant under this program for asbestos removal and other renovations. The Family Research Council warned the new program “gets the foot in the door” for a further expansion of federal responsibilities into school construction.
Included in the new education budget is a requirement for schools and libraries to install Internet filters if they receive federal assistance for Internet connections. Those filters would use Internet blocking technology to restrict students’ access to pornography.