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Governors to Congress: Don’t Shortchange Us on ESSA, Special Ed.

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 30, 2017 2 min read
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With President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year now on the table, the nation’s governors have a message for Congress: Think carefully before you cut key education programs.

In a May 25 letter to the four top federal lawmakers responsible for funding the U.S. Department of Education, Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., and Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., urged Congress to “prioritize investments” in programs related to the Every Student Succeeds Act, career and technical education, and elsewhere.

“Governors’ message to Congress is clear: There must be careful consideration as to how to appropriately invest in these types of programs (and many others),” Sandoval and Inslee wrote. “Otherwise, cuts and changes not carefully considered could lead to a deterioration of state budgets.” Sandoval is the vice chairman of the NGA.

The NGA’s letter does not mention Trump’s budget directly. But it was sent two days after the release of Trump’s spending blueprint, which proposes a 13.5 percent cut (about $9.2 billion) to the Education Department. In addition to eliminating Title II money for effective instruction and 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding that supports afterschool programs, the budget also cuts money from Perkins career and technical education grants, and makes relatively small reductions in Title II and special education funding.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said repeatedly she wants states to have plenty of leeway when implementing ESSA, and that the era of inappropriate Washington intrusion into schools is over. But states’ appreciation of that flexibility will probably be limited, if they think that significant budget cuts in Washington will hamper their ability to succeed under the new federal education law.

Sandoval and Inslee write that, “States’ transition from the federal overreach of No Child Left Behind cannot proceed without the investments Congress promised states for programs under ESSA,” including Title II and after-school programs, as well as the block grant under Title IV (the latter also gets no money in Trump’s budget plan). They also call on lawmakers to “prioritize investments” in the following programs:

• All programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA),
• State grants under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act,
• Preschool Development Grants, and
• Part B and Part C state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The NGA’s letter is addressed to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and top Democrat respecitvely of the Senate subcommittee that funds the Education Department, as well as Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who hold corresponding positions in the House. Lawmakers can and likely will ignore large parts of Trump’s proposed education budget when crafting their own spending plans for fiscal 2018.

Need a visual aid for how Trump’s budget proposal would change the Education Department? Check out our chart below: