« PreviousContinue »
DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS FOR FISCAL YEAR 1992
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 1991
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS,
The subcommittee met at 9:36 a.m., in room SD-192, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Tom Harkin (chairman) presiding. Present: Senators Harkin, Specter, and Gorton. Also present: Senators Exon and Craig.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR THOMAS HARKIN
Senator HARKIN. This subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies will come to order. Today, the subcommittee will begin hearing testimony of approximately 150 congressional and public witnesses, and we have scheduled six special sessions to hear this testimony.
This year, the committee had requests from 307 individuals and public organizations to testify before this subcommittee. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of time, we have been able to schedule only the first 150 such individuals and organizations who wrote to us. I regret that we cannot hear everyone, but the committee has made it known to those who did not make the cutoff, that we will be pleased to publish their statements in the hearing record.
In order to keep on schedule, we will need to use this light system here, which will give each witness 3 minutes to summarize the key points of their statement. I would request each witness to please attempt to summarize it as shortly as possible. This will give us some time, perhaps, to ask a few questions and to insure that everyone gets a fair and equal chance.
Today, we will hear testimony on a wide range of subjects, including education, family planning, nurse training, community health centers, funding for several programs of interest to the elderly, biomedical research, AIDS, and the Social Security Administration, just to mention a few. I have noticed that a number of the statements suggest increases of well over $1 billion, and well over 50 percent increases for just a handful of programs.
Needless to say, the Budget Enforcement Act has given us all a very difficult situation this year. And from that, we expect a growth of about 4 to 5 percent over the 1991 level in total for the subcommittee. While I am sure that we will agree on the importance of the several programs that we will discuss this morning, the amount of funding increases that we will be able to provide will, by necessity, be limited. I look forward to the advice of each one of you in making the many difficult decisions that face this subcommittee this year.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES EXON, U.S. SENATOR FROM NEBRASKA
Senator HARKIN. The first witness this morning is my distinguished colleague and good friend and neighbor to the west, the Honorable Senator Jim Exon from Nebraska.
Welcome to the subcommittee, Senator. Your statement will be made a part of the record in its entirety. And please proceed as you so desire.
Senator EXON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Let me also ask unanimous consent that a prepared statement by my colleague, Senator Kerrey from Nebraska be inserted in the record following my remarks. And I will supply that to the clerk.
Senator HARKIN. Without objection.
Senator EXON. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to offer my strong support for the several programs which will come before the jurisdiction of this subcommittee. And we appreciate the fact that the chairman, particularly, has a very basic understanding of all these, and we appreciate your support in the past.
Nebraska has a vital interest in nearly all of the categories of impact aid. Within the section 3 program, there are 8 schools which fall under the "a" payments and 13 schools benefiting from the “b” payments. Nebraska's impact aid payments also include children who live in low-income housing, and section 2 students eligible due to Federal projects which take productive, taxable land out of the local tax base.
Nebraska is the home to three Indian tribes, the Winnebago, the Omaha, and the Santee. These schools rely heavily on impact aid for over one-half of their operating budget. Mr. Chairman, impact aid is of basic importance to these schools and should be fully funded. Even more important, it is the fundamental obligation of the Federal Government. This should not be considered a discretionary program in the plain English sense of the word. It is mandatory, rather. The administration's recommendations have not even taken into consideration inflationary increases. Per pupil expenditures have increased an average of 7 percent over the past 6 years. Impact aid funding increases have averaged less than 3 percent and school districts are falling further and further behind. This funding is basic to these schools and provides essential items such as books, teachers' salaries, desks, and equipment. The funding which is received by these schools does not make them able to offer a frills included education. Rather, it provides them with basic resources to just stay in business.
Local communities are finding it more and more difficult to educate students from revenues collected from local taxpayers. We can
not expect those already overburdened local governments to subsidize the bill for federally connected children.
As you are aware, Mr. Chairman, the administration has proposed placing impact aid in block grant funding in one package, and I suggest that this makes no sense. Impact aid funding does not pass through the State education departments. It goes directly to the schools. Adding another layer of bureaucracy will not make the system more efficient. In the agreement reached by the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures on block grant fundings, they chose to exclude impact aid.
The responsibility of taking care of federally impacted students is that of the Federal Government, and it must accept this responsibility. We have heard from the administration how important education is to our future generations, yet we have not seen the same commitment in funding the programs for which it is directly responsible.
Mr. Chairman, I am also very supportive of the increased funding for the State Student Incentive Grant [SSIG] Program and the Star Schools Program. The President has once again zeroed out the SSIG Program, but it requested funding for star schools programs at $10 million. The SSIG Program has proven invaluable for both students and schools. At a time when the Secretary of Education has put reform of the Student Loan Program at the forefront of his agenda, we must not further reduce the amount of grants that we make to students.
It is becoming more and more difficult for the middle-income American to send his child to school. Lower-income students now receive loans which they cannot repay, instead of grants, and middle-income students cannot qualify for loans which they would be much more likely to repay. We must reverse the trend of student loans to those least able to repay, and once again award grants to students from the lower income families. The SSIG Program is cost effective and has been very successful. It is matched by States dollar for dollar, and that certainly means more bang for the buck, educationwise. Just what we need, I suggest. I believe the SSIG Program is worth of funding at the highest possible level.
There are other programs that I have included that I ask for your support, and I ask that the full copy of my statement be printed in the record as if delivered. And I would be glad to respond, if I can, recognizing the time constraints, to any questions that you might have, Mr. Chairman.
[The statements follow:]
STATEMENT OF SENATOR JIM EXON
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to offer my strong support for several programs which will come before the jurisdiction of this subcommittee.
Nebraska has a vital interest in nearly all categories of Impact Aid. Within the Section 3 program there are 10 schools which fall under the "A" payments, and 13 schools benefiting from "B" payments. Nebraska Impact Aid payments also include children who live in low-income housing and Section 2 students eligible due to federal projects which takes productive, taxable land out of the local tax base. Ne
braska is home to three Indian tribes, the Winnebago, Omaha and Santee. These schools rely heavily on Impact Aid for over half of their operating budgets.
Mr. Chairman, Impact Aid is of basic importance to these schools and should be fully funded. Even more important, it is a fundamental obligation of the federal government. This should not be considered a "discretionary" program in the plain English sense of the word. It is mandatory. The Administration's recommendations have not even taken into consideration inflationary increases. Per pupil expenditures have increased an average of 7 percent over the past 6 years. Impact Aid funding increases have averaged less than 3 percent and school districts are falling further and further behind. This funding is basic to these schools and provides essential items such as books, teachers' salaries, desks and equipment. The funding which is received by these schools does not make them able to offer a "frills included" education; rather it provides them with basic resources to "stay in business."
Local communities are finding it more and more difficult to educate students from revenues collected from local taxpayers. We cannot expect these already overburdened local governments to subsidize the bill for federally connected children.
As you are aware, the Administration has proposed placing Impact Aid in block grant funding. This makes no sense. Impact Aid funding now does not pass through state education departments. It goes directly to the schools. Adding another layer of bureaucracy will certainly not make the system more efficient. In the agreement reached by the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures on block grant funding programs, they chose to exclude Impact Aid. The responsibility of taking care of Federally Impacted Students is that of the federal government and it must accept it. We have heard from the Administration how important education is to our future generations, yet we have not seen the same commitment in funding of programs for which it is directly responsible.
Mr. Chairman, I am also very supportive of increasing funding for the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) program and the Star Schools programs. The President has once again zeroed out the SSIG program, but has requested funding for Star Schools programs at $10 million.
The SSIG program has proven invaluable for both students and schools. At a time when the Secretary of Education has just put reform of the Student Loan Program at the forefront of his agenda, we must not further reduce the amount of grants we make to students. It is becoming more and more difficult for the middle income American to send his child to school. Lower income students now receive loans which they cannot repay instead of grants, and middle income students cannot qualify for loans which they would be much more likely to repay. We must reverse the trend of student loans to those least able to repay and once again award grants to students from the lower income families. The SSIG program is cost-effective and has been very successful. It's matched by states dollar for dollar-more bang for the buck. Just what we need. I believe SSIG is worthy of funding at the highest levels possible.
The Star Schools program is one of the most innovative new education programs to come along. All schools, especially those in rural areas, can benefit. Distance learning programs deliver live, interactive courses via satellite. My state of Nebraska has been a leader in setting up the multi-state the Satellite Educational Resources Consortium (SERC). SERC provides instruction in areas such as foreign language, science, and math. SERC costs much less per pupil than traditional education, but does not sacrifice quality. Distance learning programs allow rural schools to provide a quality curriculum which they might not otherwise be able to afford. SERC is also providing advanced courses, seminars and in-service workshops for teachers during the school year and continue their education and keep up-to-date on current issues. Rural schools can now offer curriculum courses only previously available in larger, better funded school districts.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to express my support for these invaluable programs. I hope they are given priority and your most generous consideration. An educated society is a successful, taxpaying one.
Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to add my Nebraska colleague Bob Kerrey's testimony to the record.
STATEMENT OF SENATOR J. ROBERT KERREY
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the Committee for allowing me this opportunity to present testimony in support of the Impact Aid program.
Over forty years ago, the Congress formally acknowledged the federal government's responsibility to assist school districts that educate federally-connected students. By enacting Public Law 81-374, the Impact Aid program, the federal govern
ment recognized its duty to reimburse school districts for the property tax foregone because of federal ownership, and for lost revenues from "federally-connected" par
Congress did not establish this program as a special benefit. Rather, it was the fulfillment of a federal responsibility to these communities.
Over the past decade, the impact aid program, like so many other essential education programs, has failed to keep up with the cost of living. In fact, the Administration's fiscal year 1992 budget request is about 20 percent below the amount Congress appropriated for this vital program last year.
I have some strong concerns about the President's proposed impact aid budget. First, it freezes the funding level for "a" students at the fiscal year 1991 level without taking inflation into account.
Second, it eliminates funding for "b" students, arguing that "the presence of these children imposes a much smaller financial burden than that of "a" children, and it can be met with local resources." It is hard to tell that to the Papillion-LaVista School District that has about 2,400 "impacted" students, including 2,100 "super b" students. Or the Plattsmouth School District with 28 percent or 445 of its students being "impacted", all "super b"s.
Third, for the Section 3(d)2XB) Program, which provides additional payments for any school district which is 50 percent or more affected, the Administration is proposing a separate appropriation. I oppose the Administration's effort to change this program's budget treatment. This program was originally designed to meet the financial needs of the more severely impacted school districts. The inadequate funding of the impact aid program is requiring more school districts to consider applying for funding under 3(d)(2XB). My fear is that there might be some push to eventually prorate payments under 3(dX2XB). The result would be that the children of the Bellevue School District and other highly impacted school districts will suffer if section 3(dX2XB) is prorated.
Finally the Administration again reduces the construction component of the program despite the important assistance it provides to communities facing an influx of federally-connected students.
Mr. Chairman, this budget proposal does not take into account the very real needs around the nation. Further, few localities rely on impact aid as heavily as Nebraska. With the Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base and a number of Native American reservations within our borders, Nebraska cannot afford for the federal government to renege on its fundamental duties. These schools are also affected by the fact that the State of Nebraska continues to rely heavily on property taxes as the primary source of school funding. Any loss of revenue as a result of federal activities would be devastating without the compensation granted under the impact aid program.
It is estimated that 15 Nebraska school districts will be eligible for impact aid this year. In four of those districts-Bellevue, Macy, Santee and Winnebago-over 60 percent of the students fall under the 3(a) or 3(b) categories. As such, every cut in impact aid would be devastating to these schools. Every increased dollar is sorely needed.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, impact aid funds are not a luxury for these school districts. These funds pay for bread-and-butter operating costs, for textbooks, for teacher salaries. I urge upon the Subcommittee today, that federally-impacted schools can absorb no more cuts, and, in fact, that an increase in financial support for these schools is essential. I know that the Committee will do what it can to ensure that this program is fully funded. I will be happy to work with this Committee to see that action is taken to provide these students with the best education possible.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.
STAR SCHOOLS PROGRAMS
Senator HARKIN. Senator Exon, thank you very much for your fine statement. And I would just thank you, again, for the very strong support through all your years of public life, and Senator, for your strong support for education.
I would also add that I am aware of the great strides Nebraska has made in the Star Schools Program in getting good education benefits to kids who live in rural areas and small towns and communities. Nebraska has been a leader in that regard.