WASHINGTON – President Bush's budget would cut money for education, the second straight time he has sought less school spending after a first term of steady increases.
The Education Department would get $54.4 billion for discretionary spending in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. That would amount to a cut of $3.7 billion, or 6.4 percent, from this year.
Bush would eliminate 42 education programs deemed unnecessary or inefficient, including some money for the arts, technology, parent-resource centers and drug-free schools.
Overall, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said, education has fared well under Bush, with larger percentage increases than any other domestic area outside of national security. But the big increases came early in Bush's first term after he won bipartisan support for his education law.
A year ago, Bush proposed cutting the education budget by 1 percent, to $56 billion from $56.6 billion. Congress eventually approved a slight increase instead — but that included a one-time boost of hurricane relief aid. Some major education programs got less money this year.
School leaders warn that shrinking budgets will hurt their ability to improve learning among students regardless of race or poverty, the goal of Bush's No Child Left Behind law in 2001.
Bush wants a new $100 million in vouchers for poor students to attend private schools or get extra tutoring. The money would go to students at schools that have not met their progress goals for five straight years and must be "restructured" under federal law.
But Congress rejected private vouchers when it passed the No Child Left Behind law. Congress has supported one only voucher experiment, for District of Columbia students.
The education budget is part of a $2.77 trillion plan that Bush sent to Congress on Monday. It shifts money to current White House priorities, under a theme of global competitiveness.
Those include math help for middle-school students, foreign language courses, and training for more high school teachers to lead college-level math and science courses.
Money for the biggest federal education program — aid to poor school districts, known as Title I funding — would stay at $12.7 billion.
Bush would end the federal vocational education program and shift its $1.2 billion toward expanded yearly testing and academic help for high school students. He tried to win approval for the same high school initiative last year, and Congress didn't consider it.