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Trump's Budget Blueprint Pinches Pennies For Education

The proposal from the White House calls for a $1.4 billion increase in funding for school choice; a total of $9 billion in cuts.

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Hanna Barczyk for NPR

This morning President Trump released a proposed 2018 budget that calls for a $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut for the U.S. Department of Education.

The document released today is only an initial sketch — a proposal, really — one that must compete with Congress’s own ideas. It indicates how Trump plans to make good on his pledge to dramatically reduce parts of the federal government while increasing military spending.

And, it provides some direction on how the administration plans to promote school choice, the president’s signature education issue.

As we’ve noted before, federal education spending provides a small fraction of the resources spent on public schools and colleges in the U.S. For example, the Education Department’s entire budget for 2017 was $69.4 billion. Meanwhile, the budget for the New York City public schools — the nation’s largest district — was $29.2 billion, of which $1.7 billion came from the federal government.

Still, the blueprint gives the clearest indication to date of where schools and colleges fall on the priority list for this administration, and its plans for education policy going forward. Here’s our breakdown.

Added

  • A $168 million increase for charter schools, currently funded at over $300 million annually.
  • $250 million for an unspecified “new private school choice program,” which may be vouchers. The budget proposal states that total school choice funding will eventually reach the level Trump mentioned in the campaign: $20 billion. (Tax credit scholarships, another potential vehicle to fund private school choice, would be implemented through tax reform, and are not mentioned in this budget plan).
  • A $1 billion increase for Title I, which provides funding to high-poverty schools. This increase would be dedicated to promoting and increasing school choice.

Eliminated

  • The $2.25 billion Supporting Effective Instruction program, also known as Title II, Part A. This grant program for states was designated to better recruit, support and train educators, particularly for high-need schools.
  • The $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provided before- and after-school enrichment, tutoring and other services.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides $732 million in need-based aid for college students.

Cut

  • $193 million from TRIO and GEARUP, programs that help prepare low-income, first-generation and disabled students for college, starting in middle school.

For the Pell Grant, the federal government’s main income-based college aid program, the proposal calls for “level funding.” But, that “level” technically includes “a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding.” So, while Pell Grant funding would not go down, that $3.9 billion would not be available.

Pell spending has actually been on a downward trend since 2010-2011, but it had been expected to rise following a series of Obama administration changes to make it easier for families to apply for the grant.

Other

The proposal “eliminates or reduces” a list of programs without giving further details, including: “Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.”

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