Opinion
Federal Opinion

The Trump Budget Puts America’s Students Last

By Margaret McKenna — April 18, 2017 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

President Donald Trump’s “America First” federal-budget blueprint, released last month, stands to undermine one of the nation’s most successful K-12 learning programs. The president’s suggested funding cuts would take away resources that are critical to the academic success and healthy development of our most vulnerable students.

The Trump administration has proposed eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program—the only source of federal funding, an annual $1.1 billion, for after-school and summer programs. Since the 1990s, the program has funded nearly 9,600 centers nationwide—most located in schools in high-poverty communities. This measure would affect the more than 1 million children now enrolled in federally financed programs across the country.

BRIC ARCHIVE

In rationalizing the proposed cut, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, claimed there is “no demonstrable evidence” that after-school programs, designed to help low-income children do better in school, are successful. Whether administration officials are consciously rejecting evidence or just alarmingly uninformed, they are completely wrong.

On the contrary, after-school and summer learning programs are a highly effective and cost-efficient way to maintain the educational progress students make during the school year. A 2008 study by the Harvard Family Research Project confirmed that participation in after-school programs was associated with a host of positive outcomes: better attitudes toward school; higher school attendance; lower dropout rates; better test scores and grades; and improved homework completion.

Summer and after-school learning also allows students to dive deeply into subjects of personal interest, explore potential career opportunities, or hone literacy skills. Teachers can deepen relationships with students and teach subjects with more depth and fewer restrictions.

In contrast, every summer without academic engagement increases disadvantages for low-income students. While middle- and upper-class students tend to have access to a variety of summer activities from camp to travel, which can spark excitement and new interests, low-income students normally do not have the same opportunities outside of the school year. Summer learning loss explains why, by the end of 5th grade, low-income students have fallen behind their more affluent peers in reading by almost three grade levels.

Every summer without academic engagement increases disadvantages for low-income students."

But evidence from the RAND Corportion suggests that three to four consecutive summers of high-quality learning beginning in pre-K can get underserved students reading at grade level by 3rd grade, making them four times more likely to graduate from high school.

Ironically, the president’s proposed budget states that the administration favors “improving student achievement and access to opportunity in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education.” By eliminating funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, however, the budget proposal grossly misses its own mark, reinforcing that summer will remain a time of great inequity for students. Did the administration ask for input from the 85 percent of parents nationwide who support public funding for summer learning programs, or the 88 percent of teachers who say such programs are important for student success? Key constituents who know what children need to be successful strongly favor these kinds of investments.

Trump’s proposal also ignores that the quality of after-school and summer learning programs has vastly improved over the last few decades because of the U.S. Department of Education’s funding. The extra money has allowed schools to build professional-development programs for providers and staff and to continually assess program quality. Though most centers funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program partner with multiple community organizations, partners raised more than $1 billion in after-school and summer funding between 2006 and 2010, according to a February report by the Washington-based advocacy organization Afterschool Alliance. This doesn’t come close to federal funding levels.

Over the course of a nearly 40-year career in education, I have seen millions of dollars wasted on untested and expensive ideas to help the nation’s children improve. When I was the president of the Walmart Foundation, I prioritized giving to education and to after-school and summer learning initiatives because I believe in the necessity of closing the achievement gaps that exist in too many of our school systems.

In the coming weeks, Congress will begin the process for creating the new federal budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1. It’s my sincere hope that lawmakers will recognize the imprudence of the president’s proposal for after-school learning and rectify its funding in the budget that passes—for the good of our students and for the betterment and future of our country.

A version of this article appeared in the April 19, 2017 edition of Education Week as Trump Budget Puts America’s Students Last

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Miguel Cardona Came in as a Teacher Champion. Has COVID Muted His Message?
The education secretary is taking heat from some who say his advocacy is overshadowed by Biden's push to keep schools open.
11 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks to students at White Plains High School in White Plains, N.Y. on April 22, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks to students at White Plains High School in White Plains, N.Y., last April.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Federal Citing Educator and Parent Anxieties, Senators Press Biden Officials on Omicron Response
Lawmakers expressed concern about schools' lack of access to masks and coronavirus tests, as well as disruptions to in-person learning.
5 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, testify at a Senate hearing about the federal response to COVID-19.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus