President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal seeks to cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education by a whopping 7.8 percent, including a $4.7 billion cut for K-12 programs. But there’s a bright spot: an ask for a $680 million increase to state grants for career and technical education, the largest federal program aimed at high schools.
That would bring the program to $2 billion, a 53 percent increase, or about as much money as the feds currently spend on teacher training through the Title II program. The budget proposal would have to be approved by Congress, where lawmakers from both parties have historically rejected Trump’s budget proposals.
The increase for career and technical education is “sizeable,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, the associate executive director for policy and advocacy at AASA, the School Administrator’s Association. But she said that it’s not enough to make up for significant proposed cuts to other K-12 funding.
“We have a responsibility to support CTE, but not at the expense of every [other] federal K-12 program,” she said, ticking off Title I grants for disadvantaged students; Title II grants for teacher training; and Title IV, a flexible block grant that pays for arts, safety, health, and other programs.
What’s more, she said, if Congress were to go along with the budget proposal, which is unlikely, there may not be much new investment in workforce preparation, since districts and states could be forced to shift their own dollars out of those programs to make up for the federal cuts.
Alisha Hyslop, the director of public policy at the Association of Career and Technical Education in Alexandria, Va., was on the same page.
“We were very excited about the increases for career and technical education, they were at historic levels,” she said. But she said the boost doesn’t make up for the other cuts in the education budget. “All of the programs in the Departments of Education and Labor work together to ensure students are prepared to compete in a global economy. ... We hope Congress will reject the harmful cuts but recognize that a substantial investment in CTE is long overdue.”
Ellerson Ng was unsurprised that the Trump administration would single out career education for an increase. “Politically this is a president that wants to talk about jobs and job opportunity,” she said.
The proposed hike for comes after the White House lent its support to a 2018 bipartisan update of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the main federal program governing K-12 workforce preparation programs. The revamped law allowed states to set their own goals for career and technical education, without needing approval from the federal education department.
And it comes after of years of the administration talking up the importance of apprenticeships and career and technical education without seeking any new resources for those priorities or outlining specific policy proposals to revamp them. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for instance, visited Switzerland in 2018, to get an up-close look at that country’s education system, which relies heavily on work-based learning experiences.
That same year, DeVos served on a White House-created apprenticeship task force, but the panel’s final report included no new details about how the administration planned to expand job training opportunities.
What’s more, Trump hasn’t always been such a big fan of the CTE program. In fact, in his first budget request he sought a $142 million cut to the program.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.