Educators concerned about Trump’s proposed budget cuts
Thursday, May 25, 2017
No one is surprised that President Donald Trump's budget proposal for 2018 includes significant cuts to the Department of Education. The proposed 13.6 percent cut would slice $9.2 billion from the department's current $68 billion budget.
The biggest portion of that cut is the elimination of a $2.3 billion program for teacher training and class-size reduction. Districts are already worried that slashing Washington's aid for teacher development would add to the severe teacher shortage we already face. After-school programs, which form the backbone of support for working parents, will similarly see massive slashes, to the amount of $1.2 billion.
The Trump administration's focus will be on prioritizing school choice and K-12 innovation instead. It also plans to leverage the current programs for disadvantaged students and includes a new $1 billion federal grant program under Title I to allow these students to go to the public schools of their choice.
But experts and educational boards are not clear on how this fund will work and how the states will get this money. Similarly, they are also confused about the Education Innovation and Research Fund to promote vouchers. How much will be allocated to research, student and state eligibility and how much for actually dispensing vouchers to students remains a gray area.
Ostensibly, school choice sounds great. But in reality, this may be a source of more controversy, as it will end up redistributing funds from economically struggling districts to richer ones.
The same confusion remains for the budget cuts. While K-12 public education will take the major brunt of it, the plan doesn't make it clear how much of it will impact student loans and access to higher education.
While not explicitly stated, there is apprehension that programs like Head Start, which focuses on early education, will also see massive cuts.
School lunches may be in trouble, too. With educators and parents worrying about how the lack of funding has been affecting nutrition value and food quality, the new cuts will just add to their concerns.
Another worrisome feature is that the plan will do away with loan forgiveness for public servants. Educators fear the program may wind down completely, impacting many teachers with outstanding student loans. This, in turn, will serve as additional discouragement for others to take up the teaching profession, adding to shortage woes.
Experts have pointed out that the working class will suffer most under this budget proposal. Cutting state grants for career and technical education (CTE) by $166 million is going to make education even tougher for students from poorer families. These programs have enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the past and have been particular favorites of the GOP and its voter base.
It remains to be seen how the members of Congress, including GOP lawmakers, will react to this budget proposal — their reaction wasn't positive when the preliminary budget came out in March. Since the current proposal seeks to eliminate increases to several programs that were approved in 2017, much debate and disagreements are to be expected in the horizon.
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