Democrats vowed to fight GOP efforts to move an education bill in the Senate unless the White House agreed to increase education spending by $13 billion next year.
"From a policy perspective, I would say we are 95 percent there," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
"I think our caucus is as united as it will ever be on this issue," he added.
In a bill headed to the Senate floor this week, Democrats and Republicans agreed to implement standardized reading and math tests, developed by states, for all children grades 3 to 8. The two sides have also agreed to do away with federal vouchers that would allow parents to pay for the costs of attending private schools and instead spend federal dollars on after-school tutoring.
"There is an ongoing debate on how much to spend on education," said Lindsey Kozberg, a Department of Education spokeswoman.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the negotiations on the education bill have been relatively successful, compared with the partisan wrangling over President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut.
Bush has requested that Congress spend $48.9 billion on education next year, an increase from the $42.1 billion Congress agreed to for this year. Although much of his requested increase was previously mandated by Congress, Bush has called for a 5.9 percent increase in new education spending beyond what Congress called for. He has previously argued that government spending should be capped at a 4 percent increase a year, however.
Republicans on Capitol Hill said privately that Democrats might be simply asking for a particularly large spending increase so they can blame the White House for stinginess on education spending.
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