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Grant Programs Face Cuts

The bill recently approved by Congress financing the U.S. Department of Education and the rest of the federal government through the end of the year comes after months of negotiations between Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, who aimed to significantly cut domestic spending, and the current Democratic administration, which sought to shelter education and other priorities in the deal. Although many smaller programs ended up being cut back, in total, just over $1 billion was sliced from the U.S. Department of Education’s discretionary budget.

Democrat legislators were happy the spending agreement did not cut the Head Start early education program or slash all Pell Grant funding, although summer Pell Grants did take a hit. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said “We have no reduction in Pell Grants and we kept a lot of our other priorities in there. There will be no reductions in Head Start.” As the budget stands now, funding for the Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services Departments will be cut by $5.5-billion, a 3.4% reduction from the previous fiscal year. Pell Grants and Head Start funding were spared, but funds were decreased for exchange programs which send students to study aboard and for foreign language study. Many scientific research programs also saw significant decreases in their budgets. Some of the education programs that were completely eliminated included $100 million for Educational Technology State Grants, $19 million for the Literacy through School Libraries program, and $42 million for the Byrd Honors Scholarship Program. Programs that were not eliminated but did experience significant cuts in funding included a $10 million cut to the School Improvement Grants that would have been funded at $536 million and a drastic $73 million cut to the Teaching American History program that was only financed at $119 million to begin with. The GEARUP college access program will lose $20 million of its annual $323 million budget and the TRIO college access program will lose $25 million of the $910 million it received last year. Individual grants from the Pell Grant program will remain at the same $5,550 annual maximum, but the new budget bill will eliminate year-round Pell Grants. The exchange student programs that fund American students to study abroad and funds international scholars to visit the US. for foreign language study lost 40% of their total funding. Even though House Republicans had sought to cut The Head Start program by $1 billion, the new budget deal instead gives Head Start an increase of $340 million, bringing the total program budget to $7.57 billion. The new Race to the Top initiative for early childhood education program received $700 million. Findings released by the World Economic Forum showing that the US is lagging behind in technology sector education will not be improved by the loss of $260 million by the National Institutes of Health, nor the $53 million slashed from the National Science Foundation budget.