Plans to Limit GEAR UP Program Stir Concern
Bush administration plans to limit the new GEAR UP college awareness program are drawing fire from a Congressional Black Caucus member who helped launch the program.GEAR UP will serve 175,000 fewer children than it could have given current federal funding, says Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. Through GEAR UP, the federal government funds projects for middle school students to help them prepare for high school and college. Unlike federal TRIO programs, GEAR UP also attempts to promote schoolwide change while providing services to individual students.Early in 2001, the Bush administration proposed a major cut in GEAR UP, from $295 million to $229 million. Fattah opposes that move but also faults the administration for scaling back a GEAR UP grant competition without congressional approval.“We are concerned about your recent decision to award many fewer GEAR UP grants this year,” said Fattah in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education co-authored with Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.According to Fattah, the department had planned to make 80 new GEAR UP grants this year, soliciting applications nationwide for the competition. However, after receiving applications, the department chose only to make eight new awards.“This action departed from the department’s proposed allocation of funds … and was taken without consulting with Congress,” he said.Fattah and Miller are asking the department to cite its legal authority to scale back the competition and to explain its decision to “serve fewer children” in the program.A favorite program of former President Bill Clinton, GEAR UP has faced an uncertain future under the Bush administration. However, Congress may be more inclined than the Bush administration to support the program. A recent budget blueprint in the House of Representatives does not include the Bush-proposed 23 percent cut in the program. Instead, the House would scale it back by only 3 percent. The Senate, under Democratic control, may improve on that figure as well.
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