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Stimulus Compromise Cuts Education Spending

by Todd Spangler

WASHINGTON -- Some more details are available for the compromise stimulus package expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate early next week and they show that much of the cuts came at the expense of education spending.

A compromise deal between majority Democrats and a handful of Republicans was announced Friday evening, with spending on the legislation being cut to $780 billion from what had ballooned to more than $920 billion. With three or four Republicans on board, Democrats believe they can break the 60-vote barrier and move the package President Obama has been calling on to jumpstart the struggling economy.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat involved in the compromise negotiations with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, posted a breakdown on his Web site showing that the compromise cuts all $16 billion from the original bill for K-12 school construction, trims more than $1 billion from Head Start programs for youngsters and cuts $40 billion from a $79 billion proposal to help states pay education costs while trying to balance their own budgets.

Some $3.5 billion would be cut for work on higher education facilities as well.

Speaking Friday night, Michigan's senators - Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow -- both said that while much of the cuts were in education, it still provided more funding for education than the federal government does for education programs in its typical annual budget. And the stimulus plan will be in addition to the regular budget to be approved later in the year.

Debate on the bill was expected to continue on the Senate floor today.

Public housing and poor neighborhoods may have taken a hit too in the compromise. The breakdown shows $1.25 billion less to make public housing more energy efficient -- leaving $2.25 billion for that purpose -- and all of a $2.25 billion request to help stabilize neighborhoods by buying up abandoned or neglected properties would be cut.

Also cut was $5.8 billion in money for programs to help prevent disease. It was also expected that the bill -- when it passes the Senate -- would make some changes to an income tax cut and a program for the federal government to pay a portion of the premium that would allow people losing their jobs to keep their health insurance from their former employers.

Republican had argued throughout the week that the legislation was too expensive and included spending that would not create jobs. On Friday night, most of their number in the Senate continued to make that complaint, though it appeared enough GOP members were swayed to ensure passage.

A final vote was expected early in the week, perhaps Tuesday -- which would set up a conference committee with the House to hammer out differences.

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