by Amanda Litvinov
The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal, released this morning, slashes funding for the Department of Education by a whopping 13.5 percent, sacrificing critical, long-standing education programs in order to fund the privatization agenda promoted by the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos under the banner of “school choice.”
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Trump’s budget blueprint manages to give a $1.4 billion boost to voucher and charter school schemes even as it rolls back education spending to pre-2002 levels in today’s dollars, excluding federal Pell Grants. Meanwhile, public schools serve 8.6 million more students today than they did in 2002.
Public school educators—who know these cuts will have a profound negative impact on students and their families—are incensed.
“The priorities Donald Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students and deprive families of opportunities,” said Lily Eskelsen García, a Utah teacher and president of the National Education Association, which represents 3 million educators across the country.
Eskelsen García continued:
The Trump-DeVos budget would take an ax to important education programs for students, including eliminating after-school programs, and other student enrichment programs. In real life, these cuts mean students are robbed of the tools and supports they need to get ahead.
In all, more than 20 education programs would see a collective $9 billion in cuts, including:
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers (after-school)
- Title II, which helps states hire and train teachers
- TRIO and other college access programs that put higher education into reach for more students
- The Comprehensive Literacy Development Grant program
- Impact Aid, which provides funding for schools near federally protected lands that do not generate local tax revenues.
Educators and parents across the country have spoken out against the Trump-DeVos agenda to push unproven voucher programs and undermine charter school accountability, while stripping public schools of the funding they need to serve all students.
“Our public schools should not be dismembered through privatization schemes involving vouchers, charter schools or tax credits,” said Michael Fredette, a teacher from New York who says his own public school education freed him from the cycle of poverty.
“I am a registered Republican, but this is one area where the party has gone off course,” Fredette said.
Rather than cutting public education, Fredette would welcome additional federal investment in programs to combat poverty, which has been shown to impede students’ classroom progress.
“We need ESL support in areas with high immigrant populations, clinics that provide basic dental and medical support to our most vulnerable communities, and nutrition programs so that children do not go hungry when they are not in school,” he said.
“Politicians who say they want students to have ‘choice’ are really saying they do not want public funds to support education for all children,” Frederickson said.
“Current research on vouchers and charter schools show they do not do a better job at educating our children, but they take funds away from public schools.”
That will certainly be the case if the Trump-DeVos budget is approved by Congress.
“Trump’s budget also undermines our core values by depleting public education while wasting taxpayer money to implement his discriminatory and hateful anti-immigrant agenda,” said Eskelsen García.
“America and our students deserve better. The purpose of investing in public education is to help level the playing field so that children in every ZIP code receive an adequate and equitable education. Regardless, educators will continue to stand up for all students and for the promise of public education.”