FY 1999 Budget Summary

Summary of the 1999 Budget

Five years ago President Clinton set the Nation on a course to achieve a balanced budget. At the same time, he has engaged all Americans in a national effort to raise standards and improve the quality of American education to ensure America's long-term competitiveness and prosperity. In his first budget request, the President promised a 25 percent increase in Department of Education discretionary spending by fiscal year 1998.

Last summer the President signed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which was designed to eliminate the Federal budget deficit by 2002. Three months later he delivered on his promise to invest in education by signing a 1998 appropriations bill that included $29.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Education, a 25 percent increase over the 1993 level of $23.5 billion.

The President's 1999 budget request continues to combine fiscal responsibility with the investments needed to help America prepare for the challenges of the next century. This budget seeks to reduce class size, modernize schools, improve teacher quality, and support growing efforts in our Nation's urban schools to raise standards to make sure that every child has mastered the basics. In addition, this budget reflects continuing efforts to get technology into the classroom and give all Americans the financial support they need to go on to college or other post-secondary educational opportunities.

For the Department of Education, the President is requesting $31.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 1999, an increase of $1.7 billion or 5.9 percent over the 1998 level.

The Department's 1999 discretionary request is complemented by a significant investment of new mandatory program funding and tax benefits for education. These combined resources will make an immediate impact on the quality of education in the following key areas:

Reducing Class Size and Modernizing the Nation's Schools

America's classrooms are brimming with students even as they are in desperate need of repair and modernization. A record 52.2 million children are enrolled in our elementary and secondary schools during the 1997-98 academic year, but more important is the fact that we will break that record each year for the next ten years. Building more schools and reducing class size can raise standards, improve discipline, and give every student the individual attention they need to excel. The following initiatives will help address these problems and create safe, modern schools that promote learning:

In addition to these budget initiatives, the Administration will build on its continuing efforts to give States and local school districts increased flexibility by reducing Federal regulations. Since 1995, the Department has eliminated one-third of all regulations and two-thirds of the regulations governing elementary and secondary education programs. The ED-FLEX demonstration currently empowers 12 States to waive Federal rules and encourages them to waive their own regulations as well. The Administration remains committed to giving school principals and teachers maximum flexibility to raise standards, and will make a vigorous effort in the coming year to expand the ED-FLEX authority to additional States, encourage greater use of the Title I schoolwide program authority, and eliminate any other regulations that hinder efforts to raise standards or turn around low-performing schools.

Mastering the Basics to Prepare for the Future

Learning to read well and independently by the end of the 3rd grade is essential for all further learning, and demonstrating an understanding of challenging mathematics-- including elements of algebra and geometry--by the end of 8th grade is crucial for college preparation and productive employment. All students must gain mastery of these basic subjects, but they are particularly important for educationally disadvantaged and limited English proficient students, who often fall behind early and find it difficult to catch up in the later grades.

For 1999, the Department of Education budget provides significant resources to help ensure that all students master the basics of reading and mathematics:

Closing the Gap: Support for Urban Education

The schools and teachers facing the most difficult challenges in helping their students reach world-class academic standards are found in America's cities. Nevertheless, promising efforts to turn around low-performing schools are starting to take hold as urban school superintendents adopt a "no excuses" approach of raising standards, improving discipline, and ending social promotion. The Department of Education's 1999 budget seeks to support these efforts in the following ways:

Educational Technology

All students must learn to use computers and other tools of the information age if they are to succeed in the workplace of the 21st century. Just as important, technology promises new ways of reaching and teaching all students to challenging academic standards. The 1999 request will help make this promise a reality by providing:

In addition to these budget items, schools will be able to greatly expand their use of technology through the E-Rate, or universal service program, created under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Under the E-Rate program, schools and libraries may receive discounts of up to 90 percent on Internet services and networking hardware and software. In 1998, these discounts are expected to total approximately $1.7 billion.

Helping Students Prepare and Pay for College

More and more jobs--particularly those involving technology--require at least some postsecondary education, making the opportunity to go to college more important than ever for American families and their children. President Clinton has worked hard to help students and families pay the costs of postsecondary education.

For example, the maximum Pell Grant award has climbed from $2,300 when President Clinton first took office to the current level of $3,000, an increase of 30 percent. The President's HOPE Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits will provide an estimated $6.7 billion to more than 12 million students and families in 1999. And Federal student loan programs now charge lower interest rates and fees while offering more flexible repayment plans.

The 1999 request continues to help students and families pay for college, while emphasizing programs aimed at encouraging young people and their families--particularly those from minority and low-income backgrounds--to begin thinking about and preparing for college early in middle school:

Totals in the Budget

The President's budget for the Department of Education provides a total of $31.2 billion in discretionary budget authority, an increase of $1.7 billion, or 5.9 percent, over the 1998 level of $29.4 billion. Funding for mandatory programs would increase from an estimated $5.3 billion in 1998 to an estimated $6.6 billion in 1999, primarily due to the $1.1 billion Class Size Reduction Initiative. Total Department budget authority would rise from $34.7 billion in 1998 to $37.8 billion in 1999. In addition, at the Treasury Department, the HOPE Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits would save students and families $6.7 billion in postsecondary education expenses in 1999. The more than $20 billion in interest-free school construction bonds will generate approximately $10 billion in tax expenditures over ten years.

Totals for the Department are:

  (Budget Authority in Millions)
Discretionary $26,312 $29,409 $31,155
Mandatory 7,269 5,312 6,640
Total 33,581 34,721 37,795

Within these totals, the 1999 budget request is aligned with the three programmatic goals of the Department's Strategic Plan: (1) helping all students reach challenging academic standards, (2) building a solid foundation for learning for all children, and (3) ensuring access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning. This alignment reflects Department compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act, which, in addition to the development of a long-term strategic plan, requires the submission of annual performance plans beginning with fiscal year 1999. The Department's first annual performance plan, which will be submitted to Congress shortly after the release of the President's 1999 budget request, will include program goals and performance indicators that will help to measure the Department's progress in implementing its Strategic Plan. More detailed program performance information also is included in the budget justifications prepared for the Congressional appropriations committees.


The need to raise academic standards for all students has been the driving force behind every elementary and secondary education initiative proposed by the Clinton Administration. Congress has largely agreed with this emphasis, and challenging academic standards are the unifying theme of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the Improving America's Schools Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. High standards are at the core of the changes States and communities are making to prepare their children for the challenges of the 21st century. For these reasons, helping all students reach challenging standards is Goal 1 of the Department's Strategic Plan, and the 1999 request puts the following resources behind this goal:


To reach the challenging academic standards called for in Goal 1 of the Department's Strategic Plan, children must be given appropriate developmental opportunities at an early age and start school prepared to learn. They also must master the basics of reading and mathematics in the early grades; these subjects are the gateway to academic success in high school and beyond. Finally, all children need this foundation to succeed in school; America will not prosper if disadvantaged students, limited-English-proficient students, or students with disabilities are left behind. That's why the Department's 1999 budget includes significant increases for activities related to Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan--ensuring that all students receive the support necessary to build a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning:


President Clinton has had a single, consistent message on postsecondary education: everyone who works hard can go to college. The best example of this is the HOPE Scholarship tax credits, which, in the President's words, "make two years of college as universal tomorrow as a high school education is today." In addition, the doors of learning and higher education must be kept open for a lifetime, whether for dropouts returning to get a GED, recent immigrants learning English, workers forced to re-skill by changing technology, or individuals with disabilities seeking self-sufficiency through employment. The Department's 1999 request supports postsecondary education and lifelong learning--Goal 3 of the Strategic Plan--through the following:

[Table of Contents] [Elementary and Secondary Education]

Direct any questions to Martha Jacobs, Budget Service