Federal

Trump Budget Draws Ire, Tepid Support From School Choice World

By Arianna Prothero — May 26, 2017 3 min read
Eric Ueland, the Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, distributes President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 federal budget to congressional staffers on Capitol Hill on May 23.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If there’s a clear winner in President Trump’s proposed budget for K-12, it’s school choice. With steep cuts slated for many cornerstone programs, the president, as expected, wants to boost investments in charters and vouchers.

But prominent players in the school choice world are hardly mooning over Trump’s plans to sink $1.4 billion into private and public school choice.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2018, which would pump more money into grants to create charter schools, establish a program to research and promote vouchers, and direct $1 billion in Title I funding for public school choice in districts, drew divergent reviews from advocates. The budget also would slash spending on teacher and principal training, after-school programs, and career and technical education.

Some of the harshest criticism came from charter supporters.

“The fundamental problem is that this budget doesn’t invest in anything other than choice,” said Shavar Jeffries, the national president for Democrats for Education Reform. “It’s unbelievably bad policy, because while we support choice, we also have to support college access, and we have to support teacher training, and we have to support investments in traditional public schools as well.”

Eli Broad, the Los Angeles billionaire who is a major financial backer of charters, also condemned the budget, saying in a statement that it “would hurt the very communities that have the most to gain from high-quality public school options.”

Reaction from private school choice supporters, most of whom also advocate for a limited federal role in education, was more mixed.

“On the one hand, it is a good thing to see an administration be positive about the potential in all school choice—public and private,” said Jonathan Butcher, the education director for the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. “But the fact remains, states should be the ones to take the lead and make school choice a reality for their communities.”

A ‘Down Payment’

School choice emerged as Trump’s favored K-12 policy during the campaign when he pledged to sink $20 billion into school choice initiatives.

If choice advocates were hoping for the budget plan to clarify—or even hint at—what shape a major school choice program would take, they were likely disappointed. Among the more prevalent predictions is that such a proposal will eventually take the form of a federal tax-credit scholarship program where businesses and individuals receive a tax credit for donating to scholarship funds that students may use at private schools.

Instead, Trump’s budget calls for an additional $167 million for the federal grant program that promotes the growth of high quality charter schools, a $250 million increase to the Education Innovation and Research grant program to study and test voucher programs, and the additional $1 billion in Title I funds that would follow eligible low-income students to the public schools of their choice.

While the administration missed a chance to update Trump’s $20 billion school choice promise, said Jeanne Allen, the chief executive officer of the Center for Education Reform, she noted how the White House called its budget plan a “down payment” on school choice.

Otherwise, she categorized the budget as “fairly traditional,” worthy of neither excitement nor outrage.

Even so, Trump’s clear support for school choice will continue to be hotly debated, as evidenced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ contentious testimony during a House subcommittee hearing the day after Trump’s budget was released last week. There, Democrats pushed DeVos to say whether she would prohibit federally funded vouchers from going to private schools that don’t admit certain groups of students, such as LGBT students.

DeVos demurred, saying it would be up to states to make those decisions. She later clarified in a statement on Twitter that the “Department of Education can and will intervene when federal law is broken.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 30, 2017 edition of Education Week as Trump Budget Draws Ire, Tepid Support From School Choice World

Events

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
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
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
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

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 Opinion 'Jargon' and 'Fads': Departing IES Chief on State of Ed. Research
Better writing, timelier publication, and more focused research centers can help improve the field, Mark Schneider says.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Electric School Buses Get a Boost From New State and Federal Policies
New federal standards for emissions could accelerate the push to produce buses that run on clean energy.
3 min read
Stockton Unified School District's new electric bus fleet reduces over 120,000 pounds of carbon emissions and leverages The Mobility House's smart charging and energy management system.
A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency sets higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. By 2032, it projects, 40 percent of new medium heavy-duty vehicles, including school buses, will be electric.
Business Wire via AP
Federal What Would Happen to K-12 in a 2nd Trump Term? A Detailed Policy Agenda Offers Clues
A conservative policy agenda could offer the clearest view yet of K-12 education in a second Trump term.
8 min read
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome Ga.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, March 9, 2024, in Rome, Ga. Allies of the former president have assembled a detailed policy agenda for every corner of the federal government with the idea that it would be ready for a conservative president to use at the start of a new term next year.
Mike Stewart/AP
Federal Opinion Student Literacy Rates Are Concerning. How Can We Turn This Around?
The ranking Republican senator on the education committee wants to hear from educators and families about making improvements.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty