Dear Commons Community,
Donald Trump released details of his 2018 budget proposal that includes massive cuts to the EPA (31%) and the State Department (29%). The Department of Education would see a 13.5 % reduction of its budget from $68.2 billion to $59 billion. The Education budget calls for a downsizing or elimination of a number of grants, including for teacher training, afterschool programs, and aid to low-income and minority college students. The cuts would be coupled with a historic investment — $1.4 billion — in charter schools, private schools and other school-choice initiatives. The Washington Post summarized the Education budget as follows:
“The Trump administration is seeking to cut $9.2 billion — or 13.5 percent — from the Education Department’s budget, a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to low-income and first-generation college students.
Along with the cuts, among the steepest the agency has ever sustained, the administration is also proposing to shift $1.4 billion toward one of President Trump’s key priorities: Expanding charter schools, private-school vouchers and other alternatives to traditional public schools. His $59 billion education budget for 2018 would include an unprecedented federal investment in such “school choice” initiatives, signaling a push to reshape K-12 education in America.
The president is proposing a $168 million increase for charter schools — 50 percent above the current level — and a new $250 million private-school choice program, which would probably provide vouchers for families to use at private or parochial schools. Vouchers are one of the most polarizing issues in education, drawing fierce resistance from Democrats and some Republicans, particularly those in rural states.
Trump also wants an additional $1 billion for Title I, a $15 billion grant program for schools with high concentrations of poor children. The new funds would be used to encourage districts to adopt a controversial form of choice: Allowing local, state and federal funds to follow children to whichever public school they choose.
That policy, known as “portability,” was rejected in the Republican-led Senate during deliberations over the main K-12 education law in 2015. Many Democrats see portability as the first step toward federal vouchers for private schools and argue that it would siphon dollars from schools with high poverty and profound needs to those in more affluent neighborhoods.
The slim budget summary released Thursday frames the new spending as the first step toward meeting Trump’s campaign pledge to invest $20 billion in school-choice initiatives. The document makes no mention of another policy Trump is expected to promote through a tax bill: a new tax credit for donations to private-school scholarships.”