News stories

Trump budget a ‘nightmare’ for education

Chart Money President Donald Trump has taken the first step to make good on his campaign promise to shift federal tax dollars from traditional public schools to a “choice” program that promotes charters, private and religious schools.

The education budget he unveiled on March 16 would slash $9 billion — 13 percent of the U.S. Department of Education’s funding — while redirecting $1.4 billion to choice programs, including private-school vouchers, championed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“This nightmare budget shows just how little the Trump administration cares for the children it claims to value,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The record on vouchers and charters is one of exclusion and failure. We will fight this budget every step of the way.”

The president’s budget blueprint is the opening salvo in a months-long process in which the U.S. Congress hashes out the nation’s annual spending bill. Nevertheless, it makes clear Trump’s objectives in education.

Trump’s budget plan eliminates $2.4 billion in federal grants to recruit, support and train teachers, especially in high-needs schools.

His plan also cuts $1.2 billion from the federal government’s community schools initiative, called the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides enrichment, tutoring and other academic services to students before and after school and during the summer. The city Department of Education estimated this one cut would cost city public schools roughly $140 million. UFT officials estimate the union’s Community Learning Schools would lose more than $2.3 million.

Proposed funding shift

 
$9 billion in cuts including: $1.4 billion in new funding for:
After-school and summer programs — $1.2 billion cut Private-school choice program — $250 million increase
Teacher training and support— $2.4 billion cut Charter school expansion — $168 million increase
Pell Grants— $3.9 billion cancelled from surplus Funding ‘portability’ pilot program — $1 billion increase
Programs to help disadvantaged students make it into and through college: — $1.3 billion  

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, focusing on the snacks provided to children in some of these programs, argued the cut was deserved.

“They’re supposed to be educational programs, right?” Mulvaney said in a news briefing. “They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that.”

In fact, studies prove Mulvaney wrong.

Trump’s budget includes $1.3 billion in cuts to programs that benefit low-income and first-generation college students and help prepare low-income secondary school students for college. His plan eliminates Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants that offer financial aid to around 1.6 million low-income undergraduates each year. Federal work-study programs that enable students to work their way through college would also be “significantly reduced.”

The budget raids $3.9 billion from the Pell Grants program’s surplus.

Trump could not touch current Title I funds for schools that serve high numbers of students in poverty because those funds are guaranteed under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“This budget takes a meat cleaver to public education,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “These are the biggest cuts to the education budget we can recall — even during times of great fiscal stress. Only someone who doesn’t know what public schools do and what kids need would contemplate or countenance these kinds of cuts.”

These dramatic cuts free up resources for Trump’s top education priority: school choice. Trump wants to spend $1.4 billion for public and private school choice programs, a down payment of his campaign promise to provide $20 billion a year in funding for vouchers.

About $250 million in federal funds would go toward a new private school-choice program. The Trump plan also includes a $168 million increase for grants to fund the expansion of charter schools, boosting the federal program by about half.

The plan provides an additional $1 billion in Title I dollars earmarked for a program to allow federal, state and local funding to follow low-income students to the public schools of their choice, a practice that lays the groundwork for allowing taxpayer dollars to follow the child to private or religious schools.

“The Title I ‘portability’ is a backdoor voucher scheme,” said Weingarten.

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