Every Student Succeeds Act

Senate Bill Blocks Trump, DeVos on K-12 Cuts and School Choice

By Alyson Klein — September 12, 2017 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Senators are pouring cold water on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ vision of a big new investment in school choice, as well as the Trump administration’s plans to dramatically slash spending at the U.S. Department of Education.

Legislation on both fronts received bipartisan support from the full Senate appropriations committee last week. In addition to barring the administration from using federal funding for vouchers or public school choice, it would continue paying for two high-profile programs the Trump administration is seeking to scrap: Title II, which provides $2.05 billion in federal funding to hire and train educators, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provides $1.2 billion for after-school and summer programs.

But the teacher-training program isn’t out of the woods just yet. The House of Representatives spending bill, which will have to be hashed out in conference with the Senate measure, still aims to eliminate that program. The House’s version of the bill would, however, provide $1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, meaning it is almost certain to stick around in the 2018-19 school year.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Senate’s spending bill includes a lot more money for the department’s bottom line than the administration wanted. It would provide $68.3 billion overall, a slight increase of $29 million over the current level for fiscal 2017, which ends Sept. 30 and generally affects the 2017-18 school year. That’s in contrast to the House’s proposal, which would provide $66 billion for the department, down $2.4 billion from the current budget.

The administration had been hoping for a $1 billion boost for the nearly $15 billion Title I program, the largest federal K-12 program, which is aimed at covering the cost of educating disadvantaged students. It had planned to use that increase for a new program that would allow districts to have federal funding follow students to the school of their choice.

And the Trump team had hoped to use a new $250 million investment in the Education Innovation and Research program—which is supposed to help scale up promising practices in states and school districts—to nurture private school choice.

The Senate bill essentially rejects both of those pitches. It instead would provide a $25 million boost for Title I and $95 million for the research program, a slight cut from the current level of $100 million.

But importantly, the legislation wouldn’t give DeVos and her team the authority to use money from either of those pots for school choice. In fact, the committee said in language accompanying the bill that the secretary needs to get the OK from Congress to create a school choice initiative with the funds.

That isn’t the first setback for DeVos’ school choice ambitions. The full House approved a funding bill last week that doesn’t provide any new money for the administration’s school choice proposals.

And it is looking less and less likely that the administration will be able to get a federal tax-credit scholarship included in a forthcoming measure to overhaul the tax code. Such a program, a version of which is in place in at least 16 states, would give a tax break to individuals or corporations that donate to K-12 scholarship-granting organizations. DeVos and her team are said to be working on the idea behind the scenes, but it’s already drawn pushback from conservative organizations, including the influential Heritage Foundation.

Small Victory

Still, the Trump team may end up with a small victory when it comes to charter schools, which for years have enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. The Senate bill includes a $25 million increase for charter school grants, which would bring them to $367 million. That’s not as high as the $167 million boost the administration asked for, or even as high as the $28 million the House is seeking.

The committee is proposing $450 million for another program that the administration sought to zero-out completely: the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, the new block-grant program created under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The program, which can be used for almost anything from computer science programs to band instruments and Advanced Placement test fees, is now receiving $400 million. It is slated to receive $500 million under a bill approved by the House appropriations committee earlier this year.

Separately, the bill would provide level funding for special education state grants, keeping them at about $12.2 billion. It would allocate $1.1 billion for Career and Technical Education grants, the same level as last year. The Trump administration had pitched a $165 million reduction.

The Head Start program, an early-childhood-education program for low-income children, would receive $9.3 billion in the Senate bill. That’s about the same as the current level. The House bill includes a $22 million boost for Head Start. The National Head Start Association, which represents centers, said in a statement that the Senate’s plan to flat-fund the program could lead to cuts down the road.

A version of this article appeared in the September 13, 2017 edition of Education Week as Senate Bill Blocks Trump, DeVos on K-12 Cuts, School Choice


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.
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
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.
Mathematics Webinar
Math for All: Strategies for Inclusive Instruction and Student Success
Looking for ways to make math matter for all your students? Gain strategies that help them make the connection as well as the grade.
Content provided by NMSI

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

Every Student Succeeds Act Biden Education Department Approves One Request to Cancel State Tests But Rejects Others
Officials will allow D.C. to cancel tests. They denied similar requests from two other states and approved less extensive waiver requests.
6 min read
Image of students taking a test.
Every Student Succeeds Act Republicans Tell Miguel Cardona His Plan for ESSA Waivers Seems to Violate the Law
The Every Student Succeeds Act doesn't permit the education secretary to seek certain data he's asking for, the two GOP lawmakers say.
4 min read
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Every Student Succeeds Act How Will ESSA Hold Up During COVID-19? Pandemic Tests the Law's Resilience
Lawmakers designed ESSA to limit mandates covering issues like how tests are used. Will that affect how well the law survives the pandemic?
6 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Betsy DeVos Tells States Not to Expect Waivers From Annual Tests
The tests required by federal law are crucial to helping schools respond to the coronavirus pandemic and help vulnerable students, the education secretary said in a letter to chief state school officers.
3 min read