Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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Trump wants major cuts to federal education funding

President Donald Trump sent a $4.4 trillion budget proposal to Congress and the American people today, a vision that has virtually zero chance of being passed as written but that would reduce funding for education programs by about $7.1 billion in the 2019 fiscal year.

The proposal marked a departure from a bipartisan deal the president signed onto just about a week ago. That deal would have increased funding for abstinence-only sex education programs. That, in turn, might have put upward pressure on teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates, as well as driven up Medicaid and welfare payments for poor teenage mothers.

The $59.9 billion proposal for the US Department of Education represents a 10.5-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level. The budget also proposes cuts and restrictions on some entitlement programs, such as food stamps, as well as cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal would also make deep cuts to the National Science Foundation and completely eliminate of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Over all programs, the budget proposal from the president actually increases federal spending this year, compared to last year, mainly because of large increases proposed in military spending and a ballooning federal deficit, the New York Times reports.

The Budget provides resources to enhance missile defense and to build the planes, tanks, warships, and cyber tools that the brave men and women who defend us need to deter aggression and, when necessary, to fight and win. Most importantly, the Budget provides funds to increase the size of our Armed Forces and to give our men and women in uniform a well-earned pay raise. … We must deftly employ all of our tools of statecraft—diplomatic, intelligence-related, military, and economic—to compete and advance American influence. A world that supports American interests and reflects our values makes America more secure and prosperous.

But in education, such expansion is replaced with drastic contraction or, as the president calls it, the elimination of wasteful spending in favor of more, you know, favored programs.

“Quality education exists when parents have a voice in choosing their child’s K-12 schools and students have the tools they need to succeed,” the proposal says. “Decades of investments and billions of dollars in spending have shown that an increase in funding does not guarantee high-quality education.”

There he’s talking about programs like Title II and Title IV, which hand out small grants to help teachers in our schools get the professional training they need or develop new curricular materials. The Trump administration previously called these grants, known respectively as the Supporting Effective Instruction and Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, ineffective and unsupported by evidence showing that they have done any real good toward improving student outcomes.

What this proposal promises is now to cut those grants essentially to zero, which is infinitely smaller and will make them completely ineffective, rather than just being mediocre or a little ineffective. It has always been the president’s view that the federal budget should “streamline and refocus the Federal investment in K-12 education by eliminating funding
for 17 programs totaling $4.4 billion that are duplicative, ineffective, or more appropriately supported through State, local, or private funds.”

In other words, states, schools, and moms and dads need to come up with the money themselves. The recent tax cut passed by the Congress and signed by Mr Trump might help a little, but that tax cut also eliminated the state and local tax deduction for people who take deductions. Also, the proposed cuts are more drastic than the little extra money people will receive in their paychecks can accommodate.

And those cuts would become steeper over the next 10 years if the president has his way. Part of that tax cut is also being used in order to support the use of college savings accounts, known as 529 funds, for paying tuition at private elementary, middle, and high schools, causing many to view the bottom line in the budget proposal as a blow to public schools.

The president sees it differently, though. The budget proposal “invests $1.1 billion in school choice programs to expand the range of high-quality public and private school options for students, putting more decision-making power in the hands of parents and families.” Don’t be fooled: by “public … school options” in that sentence, the president means “charter schools.”

The budget would redirect some Title I funding toward innovative school choice initiatives. The $1.1 billion for school choice serves, the proposal says, “as a down payment toward achieving the President’s goal of an annual Federal investment of $20 billion—for a total of an estimated $100 billion when including matching State and local funds—in school choice funding.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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