- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

THE DISTRICT — $789 million for education and city projects

President Bush’s proposed $3.1 trillion federal budget released yesterday includes millions in funding for D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s efforts to reform public schools in the city.

“I appreciate that the Bush Administration has given this attention to my top policy priority in this years funding package,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat. “I am confident that it will significantly bolster our work to improve public education in the District of Columbia.

Mr. Bush’s proposed budget provides $789 million to fund city-related reforms and projects, including a one-time special appropriation of $20 million “to jump start the District’s efforts to reform its failing public school system.”

Of that amount, $3.5 million will go toward recruiting and training principals and other school leaders, while $7.5 million will pay for a customized system to help track student performance and for increased community outreach.

Another $7 million will be used in part to “intervene in low-performing schools,” while $2 million will support aspects of a salary incentive program for public school teachers.

The new funding follows Mr. Fenty’s mayoral takeover of D.C. public schools last year and his selection of schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to help fix the system.

Mr. Bush’s budget proposal also calls for $18 million to improve public school education and another $18 million to expand quality charter schools in the District. Both areas received $13 million in last year’s budget.

Another $18 million — compared with $14.8 million last year — would support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Federal allocations for emergency planning and security in the District increased from $3 million last year to $15 million, although last year’s budget proposal noted that unspent funds left a total of $13 million available.

The money will help the District pay for costs associated with next year’s presidential inauguration.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said she was pleased with the budget’s $35 million in funding for the city’s Tuition Assistance Grant program and $14 million to reduce sewer overflow in the Anacostia River.

“I’m breathing a sigh of relief, because this budget had a lot of bad news nationally,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat. “But for the District, our top priorities were funded.”

The budget also calls for a payment of $7 million down from $9 million last year, according to the proposal to renovate the District’s public library system, and $5 million for construction of the city’s forensic laboratory.

The Fenty administration has said work is expected to begin on the laboratory in early 2009.

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