President Bush's plan to eliminate vocational- and technical-education funds for community colleges got a cool reception on Tuesday by Democrats and a key Republican at a Congressional hearing on extending the federal law that governs the programs.
In his 2006 budget proposal, released last week, the president called for abolishing the $1.33-billion programs set up under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. The programs provide about 40 percent of their dollars annually to community colleges.
The education committees in both chambers of Congress approved legislation last year to renew the Perkins Act, but could not reach an agreement on a final bill before the 108th Congress adjourned in the fall. Now, with a new Congress, the bills must go through the legislative process again.
But given Mr. Bush's budget proposal, some members of the education-reform subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives wondered at the hearing on Tuesday whether their work on the bill would eventually be a wasted effort. "We have to step up," said Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, a Democrat from California, "or else the budget will make what we do here moot."
While acknowledging that the panel's hearing was meant to discuss the reauthorization of the Perkins Act, Rep. Tom Osborne, a Republican from Nebraska, said the president's spending plan had put "the issue of funding on the front burner." He asked state officials who testified at the hearing what effect eliminating the Perkins programs would have on their institutions and job-training efforts.
Lewis L. Atkinson III, Delaware's associate secretary of education, said the Perkins funds allow high schools and community colleges "to provide context" for technical-education students enrolled in academic courses. "If we eliminate Perkins," Mr. Atkinson said, "we lose a balance" between career education and academic skills.End slice:
One of the number one functions of community colleges is to produce well educated, and vocationally trained employees. There goes our "education" president, leaving children behind again.