The Trump budget proposal eliminates more than 13 percent of federal funding for education, causing concern among many parents, teachers, and administrators.
On May 23, President Donald Trump’s administration revealed its plans for the United States’ budgetary spending through its “Major Savings and Reforms: Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2018,” also known as the Trump budget proposal. Among many of the economic reforms that remove funding for federal agencies, cuts to the Department of Education were among some of the most talked about throughout the country. Federal spending cuts to education total $9.2 billion with large portions stemming from the elimination of Supporting Effective Instruction (SEI) State Grants — $2.1 billion — and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) — $1.2 billion, equaling more than $3 billion in K-12 investments.
In his budget message, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” Trump said the educational funding cuts will serve a “…need to return decisions regarding education back to the State and local levels, while advancing opportunities for parents and students to choose, from all available options, the school that best fits their needs to learn and succeed.”
What is getting cut?
In addition to the elimination of SEI State Grants and 21st CCLC, the Trump budget proposal also affects the following programs:
- Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants: Eliminated
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: Eliminated
- Impact Aid Payments for Federal Property: Eliminated
- International Education: Eliminated
- Strengthening Institutions: Eliminated
- Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: Eliminated
- Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants: Eliminated
- Teacher Quality Partnership: Eliminated
- Federal Work Study: Reduced Funding
- Gaining Early Awareness for Undergraduate Programs: Reduced Funding
- The Federal TRIO Progams: Reduced Funding
Many of the eliminations were justified by citing little or no program impact on students and similarities between different programs. Reductions in funding were made to programs that the administration feels have potential, but whose federal contributions exceeded their needs.
Hearing Out DeVos
The proposed cuts have been criticized by politicians on both sides of the aisle and the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee called a hearing on June 6, 2017, during which Secretary of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, was called upon to explain relevant portions of the Trump budget proposal. At the beginning of the hearing, subcommittee chair, Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), referred to the Trump budget proposal as “A difficult budget request to defend,” during coverage on C-SPAN. When reviewing the budget cuts to education, many of the changes would remove federal funding for public school programs, such as those that aid teacher development, and low-income and at-risk K-12 students.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) explained that the proposed budget cuts also affect higher education students, as they “…would make higher education less affordable by taking $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant program and freezing the maximum award, eliminating the supplemental education opportunity grant program, which provides nearly $1 billion in federal and institutional funds to 1.6 million low-income undergraduates.”
Whether the Trump budget is approved remains to be seen, though most pundits note its unlikely that the entire 13.5 percent decrease in education, in addition to the many other agency cuts, will pass the legislative branch. The process of passing these measures is ongoing and it’s likely the tug of war within Congress will continue well into the third and fourth quarters of 2017. In the meantime, teachers must work with administrators and parents to promote the best interests of their students.