By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - When President Bush proposed ending 65 government programs this year, one of the tiniest was the Underground Railroad Education and Cultural Program.
The Department of Education said it wants to end the program, which pays for researching and collecting artifacts from the Underground Railroad, because it has "achieved its original purpose."
That purpose was to start programs to pique public interest and commemorate the Underground Railroad movement, said Todd Jones, the department's associate deputy secretary for budget. It was not intended to be a steady revenue source for any group.
"When programs are this small, they have an impact which is almost impossible to measure," he said.
For its first three years, the grant program gave out about $1.7 million annually.
Though Bush has proposed ending the program every year of his presidency, two Republican members of Ohio's congressional delegation, Rep. Rob Portman and Sen. Mike DeWine, rescued it.
In the fiscal 2004 budget, finalized in January, the two secured $2.2 million for the grants.
But the Freedom Center says it doesn't plan to seek any more of the money. It already has been granted two-thirds of the money the program gave out in its first five years, about $6.3 million since 1999. And Portman said through a spokesman he sees no reason to keep the program going.
"If the Freedom Center feels that the program has achieved its goal, then we will not move to have these funds restored," said Kyle Downey, Portman's spokesman. "The budget will be tight this year, and so we are in support of the president's budget proposal."
DeWine's spokeswoman, Amanda Flaig, originally said that DeWine probably would let the program end, since it was supposed to last only five years and the Freedom Center had indicated it was done applying for money.
But DeWine himself said later that he would try to restore the money.
"I've heard some of the same things in past years," he said, referring to complaints that too much of the money was going to the Freedom Center. "It should be available to all."
Even Freedom Center executive director Spencer Crew said zeroing out the grant program would be a disappointment. The money gets programs up and running, he said.
"There are so many places around the country that need help to make sure they continue to exist," Crew said.
Kerry rated opposite of Jim Bunning
Why Johnny doesn't absorb history lessons
Seuss' birthday sparks reading
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Chief meeting critics, challenges head-on
Freedom Center money flowing
Bulk of federal fund went to center
Shootout with police probed
Community activist bringing folks together
Fire chief resigns over cut in budget
Church delegates delay vote on gay bishop
Costume contest, carnival herald arrival of Purim
Batavia driver accused of causing wreck
Schools go all-out on test day
Sheriff's citizens academy could expand
Freshman School readied
Schools getting grant money to celebrate
Outdoor mall could bring growth to Crestview Hills
Hospital sends in this clown
Pharmacy serves low-income
Renamed chamber widens its scope
Business blooms in district
5K College Hill Rhythm Race to be May 21
William H. Hegge, environmental biologist at Miami
Norman P. Haverkos had engineering savvy