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Trump's Budget Proposal Includes a Whopping $10.6 Billion Cut to Federal Education Initiatives

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been vocal about their desire for the federal government to step back its role in education and turn the reins over to parents and states. It’s looking like they mean it according to proposed budget documents that show a cut of $10.6 billion that would open up more school choice.

According to The Washington Post, everything from college-work study programs to public service student loan forgiveness and money towards mental health and advanced coursework, would take a hit. “It’s time for us to break out of the confines of the federal government’s arcane approach to education,” DeVos said at a conference earlier this month. “Washington has been in the driver’s seat for over 50 years with very little to show for its efforts.”

The savings trade off for the budget cuts would be an expansion in school choice, with around  $400 million being used to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.

Many supporters of such a change feel that vouchers open up the option for parents to choose the right school for their child and afford lower-income students more opportunity. "It is not the government's responsibility to tell me where to educate my children," Chuck  Weisenbach, principal of the private Roncalli High in Indianapolis told NPR. "I shouldn't have the government telling me based on some random, geographic location that I have to go to this public high school." There of course is a flipside to the coin with critics arguing that in the long run public schools suffer because much needed public funds are shifted elsewhere.

An additional $1 billion would be used to persuade public schools to embrace “choice-friendly” policies. Financial aid programs that currently help some 12 million students pay for higher education would also likely be impacted.

The soon-to-be released budget seems to generally mirror earlier reports of the administration’s “America First” budget. The Department of Education would be affected by the proposed budget with a “$9.2 billion cut to the department, or 13.6 percent of the spending level Congress approved last month.” The department spokesperson, Liz Hill, assured that despite the proposed cuts, special education funding would be protected and that the administration was committed to continuing to provide “educational options for low-income students.”

However, a number of such programs aimed at helping low-income students would likely disappear or be reduced. Other cuts outlined include a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs. Grants to states for career and technical schooling would lose 15 percent of their current funding.

Congress had previously combined several smaller programs into a fund that totals $400 million this year and covers everything from anti-bullying initiatives and physical fitness to advanced science and engineering instruction. A budget of $1.65 billion had been authorized by lawmakers but the administration has set aside zero for it in the next fiscal year. The cuts would open up more room for charter schools and studies on the impact of vouchers for private and religious schools.

It’s important to note that it’s still a proposed budget and needs to meet congressional approval. It’s overall likely though, that some public school programs will be taking a back seat with a focus on charter schools.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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