Senate Continues Consideration of Omnibus

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The United States Senate Monday once again took up the omnibus appropriations act, H.R. 1105, which provides for $410 billion in federal funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2009, including about $40 billion in education spending. As expected, the Senate did not hold a final vote on the measure by the end of Monday's session, though one is anticipated for Tuesday.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the appropriations act Feb. 25. It was expected to go to a final vote in the Senate March 6. However, Senate Republicans introduced several amendments to the act--none of which made it through--delaying passage. Amendments continued to be introduced Monday afternoon and evening, none of which were approved, covering a variety of issues--one pertaining to vouchers in Washington, DC, others tackling such disparate issues as the elimination of earmarks, citizenship verification for employment, and ensuring funds made available through the omnibus may not be used for purposes deemed to support terrorist activities. Senate Democrats successfully blocked each amendment, arguing that, regardless of the merits of the amendments, passage of the appropriations measure was paramount.

The omnibus is an appropriations bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009. The measure, if passed, will bring significant funds to education and education technology above and beyond those provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, although levels of funding for some important programs are vague, even at this late date.

In particular, in the category of school technology, funds are available for but not specifically allocated to Title II, Part D of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA), otherwise known as "Enhancing Education Through Technology" or "EETT"--the sole source of federal funding for education technology under ESEA.

In the stimulus package signed into law back in February, EETT received a near-record $650 million. In the new omnibus package, EETT is mentioned, but the amount of money allocated to it is shared among a number of other programs. The omnibus includes $5.36 billion in funding that could potentially be used for EETT, although it's unclear how these funds will be divided up. Programs that could receive this funding include: Parts A, B, and D of Title II; Part B of Title IV; subparts 6 and 9 of Part D of Title V; Parts A and B of Title VI; and parts B and C of title VII of ESEA (excluding section 5494). These also include the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act; section 203 of the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002; the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003; and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Several billion dollars in additional education funding will also be available when and if the omnibus reaches final passage.

Senate Republicans are expected to introduce their final amendments Tuesday--up to seven of them, as of this writing--after which a final vote is expected. The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution Friday that funds federal operations through Wednesday. Failing passage of the omnibus before then, another continuing resolution would be required. However, the measure is expected to pass the Senate Tuesday and is also expected to be signed by President Obama.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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