President Trump’s FY18 budget was officially released yesterday. Unfortunately, the funding program details are consistent with what we’ve been hearing generally about the drastic cuts to education programs.
Despite all the rhetoric about the importance of teachers to student achievement, ESSA Title II would have its $2.1 billion for professional development and class size reduction funding completely eliminated in FY18. This comes on the heels of a nearly $300 million cut to the program in the final FY17 budget that was enacted in April. Also targeted for elimination is the $1.1 billion for the 21st Century Learning Centers (after-school programs) and all the funding ($400 million) for the new Title IV well-rounded education program that supports academic subjects, health and safety, and education technology.
Even the cornerstones of federal K-12 funding were not spared. Title I would be cut by $578 million (4%), with the negative impact being even greater on districts because of changes to ESSA that now allow states to set-aside up to 7% of Title I money for state school improvement activities. IDEA state grants would be cut $113 million. The Perkins Career Technical Education program would also be cut by 13% (-$148 million) bringing it under $1 billion for the first time in at least 17 years.
Amid all of these reductions, the Trump administration is earmarking more than $1.25 billion to fund private school choice initiatives in local districts. Of this, $1 billion would be provided through Title I in the form of incentive grants to districts that student-centered weighted student funding formulas in combination with open enrollment policies. Besides these “FOCUS” grants (Furthering Options to Unlock Success), $250 million would be provided for private school scholarships for low-income students.
Overall, the education budget numbers are grim (as are other sectors of the government budget like Medicaid and food stamps). Congress will likely restore many of the proposed education cuts during the appropriations process. But it will require a vocal and ongoing effort to make that case to lawmakers. That is why we need your help in letting Congress know that these cuts to education are unacceptable. Send a quick email to your representatives today while they are still reviewing the new budget plan. Tell them that schools need more money, not less, to help students succeed.