School Choice & Charters

Trump’s Budget Disappoints Many School Choice Advocates Too

By Arianna Prothero — May 24, 2017 4 min read
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If there’s a clear winner in President Trump’s proposed budget for K-12 education, it’s school choice. With steep cuts outlined for many cornerstone K-12 programs, the president, as expected wants to boost investments in charter schools and vouchers.

But prominent players in the school choice world are hardly mooning over Trump’s plans.

The budget plan, which would pump more money into a grant program to create charter schools, establish a program to research and promote school vouchers, and bolster Title I funding while also using it to promote public school choice in school districts, drew mixed reviews from school choice advocates. (For more details on Trump’s budget, check out the Politics K-12 blog.)

Three broad themes emerged as I gathered reaction from some well-known players and groups in the school choice world.

Hey, Feds, Stay Out of State Business

“I’m of very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I think federal support for making it easier for states that want to expand choices for families is intuitively appealing. On the other hand, I think getting Washington involved in creating or subsidizing programs in ways that create red tape and headaches for folks in states and schools is generally counterproductive. But since all this is, is sketchy budget numbers in a budget that’s dead on arrival, it’s hard to know what, if anything, this adds up to.” - Fredrick Hess, director of education policy studies, American Enterprise Institute

“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. But the fact remains, states should be the ones to take the lead and make school choice a reality for their communities.” - Jonathan Butcher, education director, Goldwater Institute

Wait, Where’s the Massive School Choice Plan?

“The interesting thing that jumped out at me is where they call it a down payment. [...] The question is, wouldn’t this have been a great opportunity, while they did in fact talk about school choice or ed reform in the release, might have been an opportunity to say we plan to propose or to alter the way the government spends money in other ways for school choice. We’ve all been waiting for the promised proposal that might be attached to taxes. We know that’s still under great debate inside and outside the government.” - Jeanne Allen, CEO, Center for Education Reform

We Like School Choice But...

“The fundamental problem is that this budget doesn’t invest anything other than choice. It’s unbelievably bad policy, because while we support choice, we also support college access and we have to support teacher training, and we have to support investments in traditional public schools as well. So it’s bad policy, but it’s also bad politics, because no reasonable person has ever supported public choice programs at the expense of everything else.” - Shavar Jeffries, national president, Democrats for Education Reform

“Under the guise of empowering parents with school choice, the Trump Administration has proposed a federal budget that would hurt the very communities that have the most to gain from high-quality public school options. The budget would undermine the purpose of Title I by encouraging states to redirect resources away from the highest need schools and students. It would slash other education and social support programs that serve students and families in need. Arts education and science instruction, a safe place to go after the last school bell rings, an affordable home, and financial support to make it through college—these are all essential to a student’s success. Public school choice cannot come at the expense of all public school families and students.” - Statement from Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

“The National Alliance supports the Administration’s investment in opening, expanding, and replicating high-quality charter public schools. [...] However, we are concerned that the proposed budget doesn’t maintain final FY 2017 funding levels for IDEA and reduces Title I Part A formula funds.* Both IDEA and Title I are foundational programs for some of our most vulnerable students.” - Statement from Nina Rees, president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

“If passed by Congress, these draconian cuts to public education will undoubtedly hurt our most vulnerable children, especially those from low-income and working-class Black families, who rely on access to special education programs, well-trained teachers, smaller class sizes, literacy grants, and before and after school programs-all of which will be at risk for cuts or elimination.” - Statement from Jacqueline Cooper, president, Black Alliance for Educational Options

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.