Trump Fails in Bid to Slash Education Budget

Final spending levels top previous year's

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President Donald Trump has pledged in the past to either eliminate or dramatically scale back the U.S. Department of Education—but he's ended up signing a spending bill that increases the department's budget to the largest number in its history.

The new spending level approved by Congress, after months of delay, amounts to a broad rejection of the more-austere budget proposal released last year by Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The president and the secretary sought to eliminate some department programs and cut back others, and create two new major school choice initiatives.

The fiscal 2018 spending bill Trump signed into law last month includes a $2.6 billion increase for the Education Department over fiscal 2017 levels. Included in the new budget for the department is a $300 million increase for Title I, the federal program earmarked for students from low-income backgrounds, up to $15.8 billion, as well as increases for programs dealing with students with disabilities and for career and technical education.

In addition, the budget preserves a $2.1 billion program for educator development, which the Trump administration's fiscal 2018 budget request had proposed eliminating. Funding for after-school and a Title IV block grant that the Trump budget also sought to eliminate was increased as well.

Many programs have ended up with more money to spend in fiscal 2018 than the previous year. In fact, just one K-12 program run by DeVos' department was cut in the new budget: the $14.5 million School Leader Recruitment and Support program that helps districts train and retain principals and assistant principals. The program's funding was eliminated for this fiscal year.

And the budget left out a $250 million proposal from Trump and DeVos to support states' private school choice programs, as well as a $1 million pitch to launch an initiative boosting public school choice under Title I. Lawmakers did agree to boost charter school funding, another request from the Trump team, although their $58 million increase, up to $400 million, fell well short of the administration's request for $500 million.

Record Funding—on Paper

Overall, the Education Department will receive $70.9 billion for the fiscal year, which will fund programs for the 2018-19 school year. That's the largest single-year discretionary budget in the department's nearly 40-year history, although it lags behind the fiscal 2011 budget of $68.3 billion after adjusting for inflation—in order to match that budget for fiscal 2018, the department would have needed a budget of $77.2 billion.

By contrast, the Trump administration's proposal would have cut the department's available pot of money by $9.2 billion, a 13.6 percent reduction from the fiscal 2017 budget.

Capitol Hill also shot down an attempt by DeVos to reorganize the budget-service section of her department, as part of her efforts to streamline her agency. The spending bill signed by Trump explicitly prohibited her from decentralizing or cutting staff for budget service.

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The bill also included the STOP School Violence Act, which will support crisis-intervention efforts, as well as anonymous systems for reporting potential threats and safety-infrastructure upgrades. Introduced earlier this year in Congress, the measure picked up bipartisan support after the shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and staff members dead.

Even as they approved the STOP Act, however, lawmakers decided to end the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. This Department of Justice program backed research into evidence-based school safety programs, from bullying to school policing. It was established after the 2012 killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The $75 million for the research initiative appropriated for fiscal 2017 has instead been applied to the STOP Act.

In addition, districts can use the $1.1 billion in Title IV grant funding for programs related to school safety and students' mental health.

Vol. 37, Issue 26, Page 16

Published in Print: April 11, 2018, as Trump Fails in Push To Slash Ed. Budget
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