New federal budget blueprint slashes education funding

16 Mar
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Written by CSBA Staff

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration unveiled a budget proposal that ramps up funding for defense and homeland security while cutting education spending by 13 percent.

Under the proposal, which would apply to the 2018-19 school year, the U.S. Department of Education budget would fall $9 billion to a total of $59 billion. Among the items on the chopping block are Title II programs which support states and districts in teacher recruitment and development (a critical need in California given its dire teaching shortage) and 21st Century Learning Centers, which aid after school and summer learning programs. On the post-secondary level, the Pell Grant program that provides low-income students with college tuition assistance would lose $4 billion that helps students pay for summer courses. Along with the Pell Grants, other less prominent federal student aid programs are also targeted for reductions.

The cutbacks alarmed many public education advocates given the threat they pose to programs that support student learning and development. Observers also noted that the budget appears to signal a pivot toward allocating a greater portion of federal dollars to charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. The administration proposes additional federal investment of $1.4 billion in “school choice”, with $168 million earmarked for charter school grants and $250 million slated for a private school choice program.

“It’s shocking that the Trump administration is cutting education at a time when we need to be investing in programs that prepare students for college, career and civic life and allow them to be competitive in an increasingly global, tech-based economy,” said CSBA President Susan Henry. “Most appalling is the fact that many of these reductions disproportionately harm the low-income students who require the most support.”

Some programs would maintain existing funding (essentially a cut when accounting for cost of living increases), but not receive the financial boost they expected; others would see new conditions attached to the federal dollars. For example, the Title 1 program for disadvantaged students would keep its $15 billion allotment, but an anticipated increase of $1 billion would now be tied to a school choice initiative. Special education funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would remain at its current level (fourth straight year of flat funding) of about $13 billion. Other popular Education Department programs such as Career and Technical Education, or CTE, and Head Start were not mentioned in the budget blueprint. [For a list of federal education expenditures in California see page 12 of: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/17stbystate.pdf]

For now, the budget proposal remains a rough draft short on many specifics including how and when its proposals would be implemented. Given the dramatic nature of the proposal and its lack of specifics, the budget faces stiff headwinds before it makes it to Congress for approval.

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