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Trump's Education Cuts and School Choice Agenda Have Been Derailed by Senate Panel

President Trump’s proposed cuts to education funding for the 2018 fiscal year have been dashed for now with a rejecting vote from the Senate Appropriations Committee. This blocks the Department of Education from moving forward with Betsy DeVos’ plan of expanding school choice and directing federal money into school voucher programs.

The president had previously proposed a 14 percent cut of $9.2 billion for the Department of Education, slashing funding for programs backed by both Democrats and Republicans. The request was dismissed and a unanimous vote to increase overall department spending by $29 million was approved.

In a contrast to how the pendulum typically swings in Washington, a bipartisan agreement was accomplished with Republicans and Democrats on the committee acknowledging it wasn’t a bill that either side would have come up with on its own. "Both sides approached this bill differently," said Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R). “It's important to reach an agreement and present a bipartisan bill.”

Some of the largest cuts that were sought by the administration included $2 billion for Title II, the federal program used to hire and train teachers, and $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Center. The program helps school districts pay for after-school and summer learning programs. Both programs were left unscathed by the Senate bill, with leaders in both parties voicing their opposition to the cuts and drawing praise from state governors.

“Today, despite a difficult fiscal reality, Senate appropriators found a way to protect and increase funding that states depend on to build a foundation for students, families and communities to live a successful life and to ensure strong state economies,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) read a statement on behalf of the National Governors Association.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longstanding proponent of school choice, had called for $400 million to expand charter school grants and vouchers for private and religious schools. In addition, the administration’s earlier proposal had sought a $1 billion boost for the nearly $15 billion Title I program. The largest federal K-12 program aimed at providing money for public school districts where a majority of students are economically disadvantaged. The administration had hoped to use that increase to help districts expand public school choice programs.

Senate lawmakers made it clear that sending federal dollars towards the creation of private school vouchers wasn’t going to happen, rejecting both proposals.

Instead, Title I was given a $25 million boost with accompanying language in the bill stating that DeVos must obtain permission from Congress before using the funds to create a school choice initiative.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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