Federal

Budget Plan Would Slash Ed. Dept. Spending, Boost School Choice

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 27, 2018 3 min read
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 recommends a smaller overall cut to the U.S. Department of Education than his first budget proposal from last year. But he is still seeking to eliminate a few big-ticket K-12 programs and streamline others, while also outlining a plan to increase money available for public and private school choice.

In his fiscal 2019 plan, Trump wants Education Department discretionary funding cut by $3.6 billion, or 5.3 percent, bringing funding for the department down to $63.6 billion. As with his fiscal 2018 budget blueprint, the president wants to eliminate programs that provide support to after-school programs and to teacher and principal training. Combined, those two line items constitute $3.1 billion in current spending.

However, the Trump administration also wants $1 billion in new money for what it is calling “opportunity grants.” They would be available to states to boost existing private school choice programs. It would also make funding available to districts that want to participate in a federal pilot program under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Trump’s proposal does not have the force of law, since Congress makes the decisions about appropriating funds, and lawmakers typically ignore the bulk of presidents’ budget pitches.

Overall Funding Levels

The Trump administration’s proposal stands in contrast to its fiscal 2018 plan, which sought a 13.5 percent reduction for the department. That was the biggest proposed cut to the Education Department since President Ronald Reagan’s budget blueprint for fiscal 1983.

Programs on the Chopping Block in Fiscal Year 2019 Spending Plan

Trump’s two biggest proposed cuts involving K-12 and the department for fiscal 2019, for educator training and afterschool programs, are the same ones he proposed for fiscal 2018. Trump also seeks to eliminate several smaller programs.

Title II, which provides training and professional development to both teachers and principal. $2 billion
21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provides funding support to after-school programs. $1.2 billion
Total $3.2 billion
Title IV, which was created under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a variety of programs in schools covering technology and student well-being $400 million
Impact Aid, which provides aid to districts whose revenue base is impacted by federal activities. $69 million
Arts in Education $27 million
Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native programs $65 million
Preschool Development Grants, which are run by the Department of Health and Human Services $250 million

(Technically, fiscal 2018 funding for the federal budget has not been finalized, and lawmakers have mostly carried over fiscal 2017 spending as a result of big disagreements about spending priorities. Still, lawmakers in charge of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ budget ignored Trump’s education proposals when considering their spending bills, and there was even public antipathy for the budget plan on the GOP side of the aisle.)

In remarks on the latest budget proposal to representatives from education groups, DeVos said: “Too many of our children are still unprepared, despite billions of dollars injected into the system with the goal of improving the outcomes.”

Trump’s two biggest proposed cuts involving K-12 and the department for fiscal 2019 are the same ones he proposed for fiscal 2018.

The president wants to eliminate Title II, which provides training and professional development to both teachers and principals.

He also wants to toss out the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides financial support to after-school programs.

Other programs either to be scaled back or discarded in the plan include:

• Title IV, which under ESSA provides $400 million for a variety of programs in schools covering technology and student well-being, would be scrapped.

• Impact Aid, which provides money to districts where revenue base is impacted by federal activities, would get a $69 million cut.

• Arts in Education: The $27 million program would be eliminated.

• Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native programs would both be omitted, a combined reduction of $65 million.

• Preschool Development Grants, a $250 million program run by the Department of Health and Human Services, would be eliminated.

Despite decreases to various other programs, Trump wants $1 billion in new money for school choice through a new program called Opportunity Grants. It would work in two ways.

• States could apply for money to create new or add to existing private school choice programs.

• Districts could also apply for the money, but only if they are participating in the Weighted Student Funding pilot under ESSA.

The program allows districts to combine federal, state, and local aid to better direct those resources to high-needs students. DeVos and her team are pitching this pilot as a way for money to follow students, although the ESSA language governing the initiative does not explicitly include any parental choice as part of the pilot.

• There is no specific money or hard-cap set-aside for either the state or district Opportunity Grants.

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2018 edition of Education Week as Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts

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