President Donald Trump on May 23 released details of his proposed FY 2018 education budget, which adamantly supports school choice and slashes funding for other major education programs and initiatives.
Under the education budget proposal, the Department of Education would see a 13 percent decrease in funding, down $9 billion to $59 billion in discretionary funding.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the budget a “historic investment in America’s students,” noting that Trump is focused on giving more power back to states.
An official budget fact sheet identifies five major themes around the education budget:
• Expanding school choice, ensuring more children have an equal opportunity to receive a great education
• Maintaining strong support for the nation’s most vulnerable students
• Simplifying funding for postsecondary education
• Continuing to build evidence around educational innovation
• Eliminating or reducing department programs consistent with the limited federal role in education
(Next page: What does the education budget cut, and what gets a funding boost?)
The budget provides a clear path for school choice:
• A $1 billion increase in Title I funding will create the Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants, which would allow low-income students to leave their schools for others in different neighborhoods, taking local, state and federal dollars with them
• $250 million increase for the Education Innovation and Research program for competitive awards for applicants to provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend the private school of their parents’ choice
• The Charter Schools Grants program would see a $167 million increase to improve state efforts to start new charter schools or expand and replicate existing high-performing charter schools, while providing up to $100 million to meet the demand for charter school facilities
The budget eliminates funding for several programs that the administration has said lack evidence of effectiveness. Those programs include:
• The Supporting Effective Instruction State grants (a $2.3 billion reduction), due to evidence showing that the program “is poorly structured to support activities that have a measurable impact on improving student outcomes and it duplicates other ESEA program funds that may be used for professional development”
• The 21st Century Community Learning Center program (a $1.2 billion cut) because “the program lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement”
• The Striving Readers/Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants (a $190 million cut) based on evidence of the program’s limited impact
Federal student aid and student loans would see big changes:
• The proposed education budget cuts $1 billion by stopping the process by which it subsidizes the interest on student loans
• A variety of student repayment loan processes would be consolidated into one repayment plan that limits monthly payments to 12.5 percent of the loan holder’s income, and undergraduate borrowers would be forgiven the balance of their loans after 15 years
• Public student loan forgiveness would be phased out. Currently, those who are employed with the government or certain nonprofits for 10 years have their student loans forgiven
The education budget also proposes cuts to career and technical education (CTE) programs–a puzzling move to many, especially because, as described in detail by The Atlantic, Secretary DeVos cited CTE several times in her confirmation hearings, and CTE shares core elements with workforce development and job creation, which Trump has vowed to make a priority.
Title I and IDEA funding will remain level.
Education organizations and advocacy groups were quick to issue their reactions to an education budget many say will deny needy students of services they have, up until now, depended on each day:
“The President’s fiscal year 2018 proposal to provide no money for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program of the Every Student Succeeds Act would deal a body blow to efforts of educators across the country to provide all students with the best education in the world,” said Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “No money for Title IV, Part A would mean no dedicated investment for supporting teachers using technology to personalize learning, teach computer science or support high-quality online learning options. It means that once again, the future of our children is at risk because of shortsighted and uninformed policy decisions. I implore Congress to support teachers and students by funding this vital program at its authorized level of $1.6 billion, thereby fulfilling the bipartisan vision of the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
“To grow America’s economy and society, we need to invest in our students and the educational opportunities that will make them thrive. This means supporting robust education networks, improved broadband access and impactful technology–all of which are becoming the backbone of modern, engaging learning environments,” said CoSN CEO Keith Krueger. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s proposed budget goes in the opposite direction with irresponsible cuts in the Education Department, and, in particular, eliminating funding for ESSA Title IV-A. This block grant program would provide school districts with vital funding for technology and other local needs. As education has gone digital, technology is not just nice to have, but is essential to learning.”
“The President’s budget proposal is so misguided, unbalanced, and dangerous to our nation’s kids and their opportunity to succeed that it almost cannot be taken seriously. But this budget proposal is no joke. That is why we encourage parents, teachers, and policymakers, regardless of party or geography, to look very carefully at the proposed deep cuts in health, education, environmental protection, and nutrition, and speak up now before it gains any traction in Congress,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “There is much to be concerned about here, but Common Sense is particularly alarmed by three massive cuts – a 47 percent cut to Medicaid, where 37 million children get access to a doctor when they are sick or injured; the 13 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Education that does so much to enforce civil rights laws and educational equity efforts; and the 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency that is responsible for keeping the air clean that directly affects kids’ health.
“The President’s budget proposal is a missed opportunity to support the 1 in 5 students with learning and attention issues in our public schools. Instead of cultivating strong educators and promoting safe and supportive learning environments, the budget eliminates all funding for teacher development and depletes funds for guidance counselors, STEM, arts education, and enrichment programs,” said Lindsay Jones, vice-president and chief policy & advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “And instead of investing more in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it diverts public funds to controversial programs like private school vouchers. We cannot expect to make progress for students if the Trump Administration fails to prioritize the programs that matter for students with learning and attention issues and the educators who serve them.”
“President Trump’s budget proposal would cut into the muscle and bone of America’s greatest innovation engine—its research enterprise. Congress rightly increased federal investment in these areas in the 2017 omnibus appropriations bill just a few weeks ago, putting aside partisan differences to resoundingly affirm that research and education are critical to our nation’s success,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “That is the direction we must take to protect and advance our nation’s place as the global leader, in this century as in the last, in economic and social advancement. We will work with Congress to advocate strongly for funding levels that prioritize robust and sustained investments in research and education. Our nation’s future national security, economic growth and welfare depend upon it.”
The education budget will next head to Congress for approval.