The education spending plan released by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday would eliminate a key federal funding stream for teacher professional development and class-size reduction—underscoring that even longstanding programs face an uncertain future in the Trump era.
For the most part, the House plan differs from President Trump’s proposal. The proposed cut to the program, known as Title II, is the glaring exception.
The bill would provide the Education Department with $66 billion for the coming fiscal year. That’s $2.4 billion less than the current budget. (See the full budget details on the Politics K-12 blog.) The elimination of Title II—a $2.3 billion program—would account for almost the entire budget cut.
Title II has been around since 2002 but only recently captured the public’s attention when the president threatened to zero it out. Districts and states have a lot of leeway in how they use the money, but it’s generally spent on things like professional development, hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes, mentoring and induction, and revising certification programs.
As my colleague Alyson Klein explained in March, eliminating Title II “would be a really big deal, state, district, and school officials say. ... [It] could hamper implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act, lead to teacher layoffs, and make it tougher for educators to reach special populations of students, or use technology in their classrooms.”
Trump’s proposed budget justified eliminating the program saying the funds are “poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact.” Research has shown that professional development doesn’t necessarily trickle down to better student outcomes.
To be clear, the cuts are still far from becoming a reality—the Senate still has to come up with a bill and members there, including Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat for education spending, are likely to fight hard to save this fund.
But it does send a clear signal that these teacher-training funds should by no means be taken for granted. And advocates are worried.
They’ve been working hard to let people know the many ways Title II funds can be used effectively. Groups such as the ASCD, Learning Forward, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals held a day of action last month encouraging educators to tell members of Congress the ways they relied on the fund. Even education groups that have been skeptical of professional development, such as TNTP, have been pushing back on its proposed elimination, the news site Chalkbeat reported.
“I am absolutely shocked and outraged that our elected representatives would fail to listen to their constituents who have now shared for months the value of Title II investments as well as the devastating impact the loss of funds will have in schools,” Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, a nonprofit that works to improve professional development, said of the House bill. “Without Title II the achievement gaps will increase and the teacher shortage will become more pronounced.”
Both large national teachers’ unions excoriated the proposed cuts, with National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García calling them “draconian.”
But Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a right-leaning education think tank, wrote in an email that there’s widespread thinking in Washington that Title II dollars are wasted on ineffectual programs.
“For that the education community only has itself to blame,” he said. “Still, in the end, Senate Republicans will probably come to their rescue.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.