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Education Funding

Trump Spending Plan Triggers Many Negative Reactions From K-12 World

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 23, 2017 8 min read
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President Donald Trump’s spending plan for the upcoming budget year represents a big change of direction, both because of its proposed cuts to numerous U.S. Department of Education programs and its $1.4 billion in new funding for public and private school choice.

Many of the responses from education organizations focus around overall funding—Trump’s proposed budget would cut about $9.2 billion from the current spending level, about a 13 percent reduction—as well as the $158 million increase in charter school grants, new $250 million program to research private school vouchers, and a $1 billion public school choice program under Title I.

Meanwhile, there’s also been strong positive and negative reaction to proposed cuts to teacher training, career and technical education grants, literacy grants, and a new block grant under Title IV, among other programs.

Below, we’ve included some reactions from prominent education groups and individuals to the $59 billion budget plan. Keep in mind that Congress can and will draw up its own spending proposals for education—many, if not most, of Trump’s ideas might be left out of those.

AASA, the School Administrators Association: AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech, like many of his counterparts in the education-advocacy world, decried the proposed elimination of Title II teacher grants and the Title IV block grant. In a statement, he also vowed to fight what the Education Department said would be its effort to change statutory language for Title I in order to allow for a new $1 billion public school choice program.

“While AASA supported Title I Part E as authorized, we will be steadfast in our opposition to any language changes to the underlying statute that attempt to repurpose Title I Part E dollars for portability or vouchers,” Domenech said. “It is shocking to see an administration, allegedly committed to local control, advance a flawed policy that undermines the most local of education decisions, how students are enrolled in and have access to schools.”

American Federation of Teachers: Remember when AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Ohio public schools with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Any good will from that trip didn’t carry over into Weingarten’s thoughts on the budget—she slammed the proposal for its spending on vouchers and school choice under Title I, and its elimination of after-school programs under 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

“While Trump and DeVos chose private schools for their kids, with small class sizes, they want to eliminate the federal funding that helps America’s public schools lower class sizes,” Weingarten said, referring to the elimination of Title II grants.

ASCD: “This budget gets an ‘F.’ Period,” said the curriculum and teaching organization. ASCD probably wins the most succinct reaction to Trump’s budget that we’ve seen so far.

Association for Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE: The good news for these two groups? The House education committee just passed a reauthorization of the career and technical education law last week. The bad news? There’s a $168 million cut to Perkins grants for CTE in Trump’s budget, and ACTE and Advance CTE really don’t like that.

“At a time when millions of job openings go unfilled every year due to shortages in the skilled, technical workforce, President Trump should double down on an investment in CTE, not propose drastic cuts,” ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson and Advance CTE Executive Director Kimberly Green said in a joint statement. “This proposed $168 million cut from state grants for CTE significantly reduces states’ abilities to use these resources to improve and expand CTE programs based on their specific needs.”

Chiefs for Change: “The president’s budget has some bright spots, such as increased funding to help more students attend quality public charter schools,” said Nicole Shaffer-Thomas, a spokesman for the group representing district and state leaders. “However, we are deeply disappointed that the Trump administration has proposed slashing more than $9.2 billion for education programs, including the entire Title II-A program to support high-quality teachers and school leaders.”

Council of Chief State School Officers: In response to a disappointing Trump budget, CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich said his group will work with Congress “to ensure that the FY 2018 appropriations legislation reflects the priorities of state chiefs as they work to serve all children in their states.”

“It is unacceptable to see the administration propose such deep cuts to key federal education programs. These programs help state and local educators ensure all students are prepared for success in college, careers, and life by giving all students greater access to effective educators. We cannot support a proposal to cut these programs and divert the funds to new federal school choice programs,” Minnich said.

Democrats for Education Reform: DFER supports school choice, but President Shavar Jeffries had nothing good to say about the Trump budget. He blasted not just the cuts at the Education Department, but other education-related programs at various federal agencies.

“The harms these educational cuts exact on our children are accelerated by the Trump budget’s related cuts to vital safety net programs that support our most vulnerable children and families,” Jeffries said in a statement. “This includes over $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, and Obamacare, as well as $193 billion in cuts to the SNAP food stamp program, and drastic cuts to HUD’s affordable housing programs.”

Frederick M. Hess: The American Enterprise Institute’s director of education policy studies, a school choice advocate, said that while a $250 million voucher proposal (the amount set aside for the Education Innovation and Research Fund to study vouchers) is “intuitively appealing,” it could get mired in federal red tape and might not be worth it.

“This is not that big of a deal. There’s not that much money here,” Hess told us. “The outlines of what the money [is] going to be spent for are still so preliminary that it’s hard to know exactly what’s being proposed, except that we know so far it’s nothing that involves really big dollars. Under this budget, it would be a project of a couple of decades to wind up getting to the $20 billion that Trump mentioned.”

Former Education Secretary John B. King Jr.: DeVos’ predecessor didn’t hold back, calling Trump’s budget an “assault on the American Dream” that shortchanges disadvantaged children and students of color. He also contrasted his vision of expanding educational opportunities with the Trump budget’s emphasis on private as well as public school choice.

“Our approach was focused on a vision of charter schools that was about innovation in public schools with strong public accountability,” King said.

Learning Forward: Learning Forward, a membership organization that works to improve professional learning in schools, is calling for Congress to not only reject Trump’s budget proposal, but to restore the $294 million cut made in an earlier budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 for Title II. Learning Forward and other groups are asking for restored funding of $2.3 billion in fiscal 2018.

“We’re just incredibly disappointed,” said Stephanie Hirsh, the executive director of Learning Forward. “We’re concerned with how we’re supposed to achieve outcomes of equity and excellence without investing in educators who are responsible for that vision.”

Lindsey Burke: The leader of the Center on Education Policy at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, Burke sees one general approach she likes (overall cuts to federal K-12 spending) and one she’s wary of (expanding school choice through federal programs).

“The Trump administration has outlined a budget that rightly downsizes spending and program count at the Department of Education—a long-overdue step that can pave the way for a restoration of state and local control of education,” Burke said. “And in that spirit, school choice should also remain a state and local endeavor, save for federal spending related to military-connected children, children attending Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, and children residing in the District of Columbia.”

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: “The $158 million increase for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) contained in the administration’s FY 2018 budget would provide critical funding to seed new charter public schools and expand choice for families and students seeking alternatives to district schools,” the Alliance said in a statement. However, it expressed concern about the cuts to Title I and special education, calling these very important to schools’ budgets.

The Alliance said these and other cuts at the department and elsewhere in Trump’s budget “would have long-lasting, far-reaching negative consequences for children, families, communities, and our country as a whole.”

National Coalition for Public Education: NCPE, which is opposed to vouchers, blasted the new money for research into vouchers, and highlighted recent research into the District of Columbia’s federally backed voucher program that showed negative results in mathematics for students participating in the program.

“Taxpayers should not pay for the department to conduct new research on vouchers, especially when Congress has chosen to weaken studies of vouchers in the future,” the group said in a statement, a reference to changes to research standards for the voucher program in the fiscal 2017 spending deal reached last month.

National School Boards Association: The Trump education budget would be a “devastating blow” to public schools, NSBA’s CEO Thomas Gentzel said in a statement. He decried the proposed cuts to teacher training, career and technical education, and other programs.

“Proposals for vouchers, tuition tax credits, and the Title I portability will not advance student learning or help close achievement and opportunity gaps. They will, however, effectively redirect taxpayers’ dollars from public to private schools, effectively creating a second system of taxpayer-funded education,” Gentzel said.

Need a handy chart that tracks Trump’s proposed changes to many big education programs? Check out our visual below:

Daarel Burnette II, Assistant Managing Editor; Arianna Prothero, Assistant Editor; Denisa R. Superville, Assistant Editor; and Madeline Will, Senior Staff Writer contributed to this article.