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Trump’s Proposed Education Budget Slammed by Many Education Stakeholders

June 5, 2017

On May 23, the Trump Administration announced its budget proposal for education programs in Fiscal Year 2018, calling for reduced funding to a number of existing U.S. Department of Education programs, as well as increased support for charter schools and choice programs. To see the U.S. Department of Education’s overview of the Trump Administration’s education budget proposal, click on the link below:

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who was nominated for the post by Trump, supported the budget proposal, saying:

"This budget makes a historic investment in America’s students. President Trump is committed to ensuring the Department focuses on returning decision-making power back to the States, where it belongs, and on giving parents more control over their child’s education. It also ensures stable funding for critical programs, including Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

"The budget also reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money. It ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes.

"By refocusing the Department’s funding priorities on supporting students, we can usher in a new era of creativity and ingenuity and lay a new foundation for American greatness."


However, many education stakeholders in California and around the nation took a dim view of the budget proposal – particularly representatives of teachers unions.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged Congress to reject President Trump’s federal education budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to teacher training, after school programs, mental health services, advanced coursework, and many other important programs.

“I give this budget an ‘F’ grade for failing public school students in California and across the nation,” said Torlakson, who leads the country’s largest public school system with more than 6.2 million total students. “We need to invest more in our public schools, not slash away at programs that help students succeed.”

Torlakson noted that the proposed Trump budget heads in a completely different direction than the California approach to education funding.

“In California, we are providing more resources to students with the greatest needs,” he said. “The proposed Trump budget takes money away from federal programs that benefit our most vulnerable students, including after school programs that engage our students, help them stay in school, and make communities safer by reducing crime.”

The President’s budget would cut federal education programs across the board and use the money to spend about $500 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and offer another $1 billion to push public schools to favor charter and private schools.

Torlakson noted that California already has nearly 1,000 public charter schools out of more than 10,000 total schools. And students and their families can use several existing methods to transfer between public schools.

In addition, California voters have resoundingly rejected school voucher proposals, which allow students to use public funding to attend private and religious schools. Voters in 2000 cast a 71 percent “No” vote on Proposition 38, which would have created a California voucher program. A similar effort, Proposition 174, received a 70 percent “No” vote in 1993.

“Vouchers are unpopular in California,” Torlakson said. “They take critical resources away from our public schools.”

The Trump budget proposes eliminating at least 22 programs nationwide. 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.

California, with the most public school students and schools of any state, would suffer, Torlakson said. For example, the federal cuts would decimate federally funded before-, after- and summer school programs that serve nearly 500,000 California’s students at nearly 5,000 sites statewide.

Other federal programs would suffer significant cuts, including grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $166 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding. Basic adult literacy instruction would lose $95 million.

No money at all would go to a fund for student support and academic enrichment that help schools pay for 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. The administration’s budget for it would be zero in the next fiscal year.

“We need the federal government to help support all California students as they learn on their way to success in 21st century careers and college,” Torlakson said. “This budget fails. I urge Congress to correct these errors and make our nation stronger by preparing our students to succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy."

National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO Thomas J. Gentzel said:

"President Trump’s proposed $9.2 billion cut to education initiatives will deliver a devastating blow to the country’s public education system if enacted by Congress. The proposed cut is a disinvestment in schoolchildren that harms students and the country.

“Over 50 million children attend public schools and our primary mission should be supporting their education. Funding for teacher training, career and technical education, student support services and innovative programs that boost college and career readiness are urgently needed, especially as neighborhood public schools continue to cope with financial challenges.

"The proposed budget disregards the need to prepare students so they can lead fulfilling and secure lives and secure the country’s economic future. Proposals for vouchers, tuition tax credits, and the Title I portability will not advance student learning or help close achievement and opportunity gaps. They will, however, effectively redirect taxpayers’ dollars from public to private schools, effectively creating a second system of taxpayer-funded education. "NSBA is committed to keeping public schools as a top priority in the upcoming budget deliberations. The Association will vigorously oppose the cuts proposed by the Administration."

Speaking on behalf of The Education Trust, President and CEO John B. King, Jr. said:

“The Trump administration’s budget request is an assault on the American Dream. This shortsighted and cruel proposal would make the climb to success much steeper for all our young people, especially students of color and students from low-income families. Instead of investing in the future, the proposal underfunds or eliminates many vital supports that give people the opportunities and tools to better their lives.

“If budgets are statements of values, this proposal tells us a lot. It does not value teachers or their professional development. It does not value the public schools that educate the vast majority of our nation’s students – including our most vulnerable students. It does not value the supports that make a difference toward students’ success. It does not value our young people’s preparation for college or the workplace. And it does not value adult learners who are trying to make ends meet to earn their degree. Indeed, this budget shows that the administration doesn’t value that which truly makes America great: a shared commitment to – and investment in – opportunity for all.

“We call on Congress to reject this budget request outright and, instead, craft a budget that reflects our country’s values and protects and supports opportunities for all young people.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a said:

“The Trump-DeVos budget is a wrecking ball aimed at our nation’s public schools. Their budget shows how dangerously ill-informed they are about what works for students and in public education. Their reckless and irresponsible budget would smash the aspirations of students, crush their dreams, and make it difficult for them to go to college and get ahead.

“We should invest in what makes schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning. That is what every student deserves and what every parent wants for his or her child. It should not depend on how much their parents make, what language they speak at home, and certainly, not what neighborhood they live in.”

“Even worse, DeVos and Trump have made failed private school vouchers a cornerstone of their budget. Vouchers do not work and they take scarce funding away from public schools – where 90 percent of America’s students enroll – and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. Spending money on voucher programs means denying students the opportunities they deserve in their neighborhood public schools.

“With this budget, Trump and DeVos want to slash billions of dollars from public education, but it’ more than education programs. These deep cuts will harm students and will have a direct impact in the classroom, but these cuts will also reach far beyond the schoolhouse doors. These budget cuts will hurt every working family in America. And that’s why we have to call on Congress to reject the Trump budget.”

“At the end of the day, the students and families most in need will pay the price because of the draconian cuts the Trump administration is proposing. The Trump-DeVos budget would slash the federal investment in public education programs by a whopping 13.6 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, eliminates at least 22 programs, and cuts $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives overall. This means deep and painful cuts to funding for after school programs, elimination of funding for professional development and class size reduction, elimination of public loan forgiveness programs meant to encourage students to go into teaching and public service. They also propose cuts to Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, and to services whose aim is to provide a safety net and protect children and working families.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said:

“President Trump’s budget proposal is manifestly cruel to kids. It is catastrophic to the public schools our most vulnerable and at-risk students attend, while being a windfall for those who want to profit off of kids or make education a commodity rather than a great equalizer and an anchor of democracy.

“The combined Medicaid and education cuts demonstrate a blatant disregard for children and are far worse than what the administration originally proposed. The $10.6 billion in education cuts, $800 billion in Medicaid cuts and $143 million in cuts to funds that help students afford college, demonstrate a lack of caring about other people’s children and an abandonment of the American value that all our children deserve a pathway to opportunity. The administration’s hypocrisy is stunning:

  1. While Trump and DeVos chose private schools for their kids, with small class sizes, they want to eliminate the federal funding that helps America’s public schools lower class sizes.
  2. While Trump and DeVos can afford whatever their children and grandchildren need or want, and while Ivanka Trump got $19 billion for her parental leave project, the budget completely zeros out all current federal programs that keep millions of poor kids safe and well-fed in after-school and summer programs.
  3. Trump says there is nothing more important than being a teacher, but he eliminates the loan forgiveness program that helps students pursue teaching careers, eliminates funding for teacher preparation and educator support, and guts most other programs that alleviate student debt or make college more affordable.
  4. Trump says vocational education is the way of the future yet slashes career and technical education funding.
  5. DeVos promised not to hurt children with special needs, but the budget cuts one-quarter of the Medicaid funding that now pays for essential school-based services like physical therapists, feeding tubes and other medical equipment, and health screenings.

“And while DeVos praised the work in the public schools we saw together in Van Wert, Ohio, this budget rips out the supports and teacher professional development that make that work possible. And for what? This budget provides tax cuts for the wealthy and redirects funding for expanded charters and vouchers. It spends $250 million on further research for vouchers even though the most recent studies, including one on the D.C. voucher program by DeVos’ own Education Department, show that vouchers hurt kids. And it diverts $1 billion from Title I funding – including $550 million in direct Title I cuts – to fund an Arne Duncan-like Race to the Top-style program. Aside from violating the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, in which this approach was proposed and rejected, even DeVos’ friends on the right, including the Heritage Foundation, have criticized this as a federal intrusion.

“Make no mistake, we will fight for America’s children against this federal budget proposal whose cruelty is only matched by its callousness.”

The Seattle Times was one of many newspapers carrying an editorial criticizing the proposed Trump budget. On May 31, a Times editorial said:

“The proposed federal-education budget for the next fiscal year flouts the values of our nation and also appears to threaten Washington State’s education budget.

“Just the numbers tell a surprising story: Program cuts totaling $9 billion from the Education Department’s $68 billion budget and $1.4 billion for school choice, including new money for states that embrace vouchers. Families could use the vouchers to offset tuition at private schools.

“The budget proposal would eliminate more than 20 education programs that benefit children from low-income families and those with disabilities. The proposed cuts include an after-school program that serves mostly low-income students, would take money away from career and technical education, cut Special Olympics education programs and a number of other programs. Many of these make up a small part of Washington’s education budget.

“But the real danger in the Trump administration’s education budget is that it shows where President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would like tax dollars increasingly to go in the future – toward private schools, including religious institutions. The Washington state Constitution specifically prohibits state dollars going to religious schools, so Washington could not benefit from this program even if the citizens thought it was a good idea, which it is not.”

Sources:  U.S. Department of Education, California Department of Education, National School Boards Association, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Seattle Times.

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