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Education Spending Declines

The president's 2007 budget calls for $3.5 billion in Department of Education cuts. That's nearly a 4 percent decrease in funding compared to last year. Forty-two education programs are targeted for elimination. The biggest include arts education, vocational education, parent resource centers, the drug-free schools program and education technology grants. (Discretionary spending on education would drop from $57.5 billion to $54.4 billion -- a drop of $3.1 billion, or 5.5 percent, from a year ago).

In a briefing with reporters Monday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings began by saying that education has gotten the largest percentage increases of any domestic, non-security agency since 2001, when President Bush took office.

That's true. Federal funding for education has gone up about 40 percent since 2001. But in the last two budgets (including 2007), education funding has been flat or it has been reduced. This comes at a time when the No Child Left Behind Act is forcing states to spend a lot more money on testing, teacher training and school improvement to meet the law's mandates.

The only new initiative in the president's 2007 budget is an additional $380 million for math and science education. That's a 51 percent increase in spending for these types of programs. Most of that $380 million would be used to significantly expand advanced science and math instruction by re-training 70,000 teachers over five years. Although 132,000 high school teachers today teach at least one advanced, college-credit course, only a quarter (33,664) are trained to teach advanced math and science. The president wants to double that number.

The budget includes money for the creation of a "teacher corps" made up of 30,000 mathematicians and scientists in government or the private sector to become adjunct high school teachers. And finally, there's new money for programs that target low-income students who are struggling in math and science.

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Claudio Sanchez