The House spending bill that would fund the U.S. Department of Education for the coming budget year seems to mostly ignore the school choice proposals put forward by President Donald Trump and would cut overall spending at the U.S. Department of Education by less that the president proposes.
However, the budget appears to cut Title II funding for teacher training, which currently stands at about $2 billion. That is in harmony with the Trump budget, which also seeks to scrap the program.
The bill, released on Wednesday, would provide $66 billion for the department, down $2.4 billion from the current budget. By contrast, the Trump administration wanted a $9.2 billion cut, down to $59 billion. However, at least a few big-ticket K-12 programs are saved from the budget ax. The legislation would not fund the $1 billion public school choice program the president proposed in his fiscal 2018 spending blueprint. Nor does it appear to provide any money to the $250 million in state grants to support private school choice that Trump also sought.
In fact, the Education Innovation and Research program, which the Trump team sought to use to fund the private school choice initiative, would be entirely eliminated in the House bill—right now, EIR gets $100 million.
State grants for special education, meanwhile, would get a $200 million increase from this year (fiscal 2017) up to $12.2 billion, while traditional Title I funding for districts would essentially remain flat at $15.9 billion. Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are seeking a small cut for special education grants, while they sought to keep traditional Title I aid at $14.9 billion, separate from the $1 billion choice program they want under Title I.
Funding for the 21st Century Community Schools Program, which funds after-school and other enrichment activities, would be cut by $200 million in the bill, bringing total aid down to $1 billion.
House appropriators went along with the Trump team’s push to increase charter school grants. But whereas Trump and DeVos want a 50 percent increase for those grants, up to $500 million, the House bill would only provide a $28 million bump up to $370 million.
Also getting an increase from current spending levels: the $400 million Title IV block grant, which would fund a variety of school programs covering everything from ed-tech to student well-being. Trump wants to cut it entirely, but the House bill would increase its funding to $500 million.
Funding for the department’s office for civil rights, which like special education has been the focus of much scrutiny during DeVos’ tenure, would remain essentially flat at $109 million.
The House appropriations subcommittee for education will hold a hearing on the bill Thursday. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee, said the bill preserved “fundamental education” programs. And Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., highlighted the bill’s increases for two programs designed to improve college access for disadvantaged and other students, TRIO and GEAR UP.
Kelly McManus, the director of government affairs for the Education Trust, a civil rights advocacy group, singled out the $2 billion cut to Title II for teacher training as a particularly big move. If that cut is enacted, McManus said, schools would be left to figure out “how they would make ends meet to provide professional development and do teacher recruitment ... particularly in areas where there are shortages.”
“It would be a massive impact,” McManus said.
Overall, she said she was surprised that the budget stiff-armed Trump’s signature school choice proposals and ignored the administrations’ requests elsewhere: “It’s not as bad as the Trump budget. It’s not good. But it’s not that bad.”
In a statement, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García slammed the House bill, calling the cuts to Title II in particular “draconian.”
“If enacted, it will deprive millions of students of opportunities by eliminating funding that will result in nearly 8,500 educators losing their jobs, slashing funding for class-size reduction programs, cutting funding for after-school programs that serve the students most in need, and limiting or eliminating professional development opportunities for nearly 2.5 million educators,” she said.
The Council of Chief State School Officers said that the preservation of current Title I spending is the right move, but said the opposite of Title II cuts.
“State education chiefs recognize we can always improve on how state and federal funds are spent, but cutting these funds to zero wouldn’t allow for an opportunity to improve how we spend those dollars and would turn our back on the commitments we have made to teachers and students,” Chris Minnich, CCSSO’s executive director, said in a statement.
Chiefs for Change, a group consisting of state and local education superintendents, also slammed the Title II cuts and its potential impact on the shift schools are making to the Every Student Succeeds Act.
“Although we support the modest increases for special education programs and charter schools in the draft bill, modest increases won’t make up for $2 billion lost in Title II funds,” the group said in a statement.