Trump unveiled his first education budget, and it contains many cuts to popular programs in public schools. But it has a bonanza for private alternatives to public schools.
The Washington Post obtained a draft copy of the new budget, which has not yet been submitted to Congress.
Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.
President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have repeatedly said they want to shrink the federal role in education and give parents more opportunity to choose their children’s schools.
Trump and DeVos are following the Obama formula for Race to the Top: Offer financial incentives for states to adopt the policies that the federal government wants. If they want the money they must volunteer, and that allegedly proves that participation was “voluntary.”
The budget proposal calls for a net $9.2 billion cut to the department, or 13.6 percent of the spending level Congress approved last month. It is likely to meet resistance on Capitol Hill because of strong constituencies seeking to protect current funding, ideological opposition to vouchers and fierce criticism of DeVos, a longtime Republican donor who became a household name during a bruising Senate confirmation battle…
Under the administration’s budget, two of the department’s largest expenditures in K-12 education, special education and Title I funds to help poor children, would remain unchanged compared to federal funding levels in the first half of fiscal 2017. However, high-poverty schools are likely to receive fewer dollars than in the past because of a new law that allows states to use up to 7 percent of Title I money for school improvement before distributing it to districts.
The cuts would come from eliminating at least 22 programs, some of which Trump outlined in March. Gone, for example, would be $1.2 billion for after-school programs that serve 1.6 million children, most of whom are poor, and $2.1 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction.
[Trump budget casualty: After-school programs for 1.6 million kids. Most are poor.]
The documents obtained by The Post — dated May 23, the day the president’s budget is expected to be released — outline the rest of the cuts, including a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.
Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).
The Trump administration would dedicate no money to a fund for student support and academic enrichment that is meant to help schools pay for, among other things, mental-health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses and science and engineering instruction. Congress created the fund, which totals $400 million this fiscal year, by rolling together several smaller programs. Lawmakers authorized as much as $1.65 billion, but the administration’s budget for it in the next fiscal year is zero.
The cuts would make space for investments in choice, including $500 million for charter schools, up 50 percent over current funding. The administration also wants to spend $250 million on “Education Innovation and Research Grants,” which would pay for expanding and studying the impacts of vouchers for private and religious schools. It’s not clear how much would be spent on research versus on the vouchers themselves.
The new budget would also have a large impact of student aid programs for higher education.
It is clear that parents and educators must organize to fight for the funding of programs that benefit students in public schools.
Ninety percent of American children attend public schools, yet they are being neglected in the budgetary planning because Trump and DeVos favor charters, vouchers, and other kinds of school choice.
Don’t agonize. Organize.
Join the Network for Public Education. Be active in the fight against these cuts. Be active in the resistance to privatization and the Trump administration’s indifference/hostility to public schools.
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