The Trump administration is calling for a 10% reduction in federal funding for schools in fiscal 2020 and is recommending flat funding for Title I, special education and English learners.
“The administration believes that we need to reduce the amount of discretionary funding,” James Blew, the department's assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, said during a press briefing Monday.
Regarding the Trump administration and Congress not being “synced up” over education policy and funding issues, he added, “It is largely a philosophical disagreement about what role the federal government should be playing in state and local education.”
The major education priority, a $5 billion tax credit proposal to allow states to create scholarships for students to attend private schools, will be part of the U.S. Treasury Department’s budget recommendations. A request to double the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program — which also gives families access to private schools — to $30 million, is also not part of the Education Department's budget but will be in the administration’s overall proposed budget.
The administration, however, is asking for a $60 million increase — up to $500 million — to support the expansion of charter schools, $50 million toward states' efforts to create weighted or student-centered funding formulas, and an increase from 3% to 5% for Direct Student Services set aside under Title I. One purpose of this increase, Blew said, is to help students — particularly in rural areas — access higher-level courses like Advancement Placement classes that are not available in their local districts.
The administration also wants to extend its emphasis on choice to teachers and is requesting $300 million for the Education Innovation and Research program — an increase of $170 million — part of which would support a “rigorously evaluated demonstration of teacher-driven professional development” (PD) and the rest that would allow teachers to receive stipends so they can choose their own PD.
“Teachers are generally very unhappy with professional development in their districts right now,” Blew said.
Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, a membership organization for those leading professional development, said in an email that PD voucher programs may benefit some students, but "our schools and communities are better served by developing systems of educator support that ensure each and every teacher experiences high-quality professional learning so each and every student has an opportunity to learn at high levels."
The budget request also includes $200 million for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, which would emphasize mentoring and teacher residency programs for beginning teachers. “Residency programs are proving to be effective” and preparing teachers for their first day in the classroom, Blew said.
Throughout 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other administration officials spent significant time determining the department's role in responding to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Educators and members of the public speaking at the Federal Commission on School Safety’s series of listening sessions overwhelmingly pushed for more mental health services for students and largely opposed the idea of arming school personnel to deter active shooters.
The overall budget proposal includes $700 million tied to recommendations from the commission, including $200 million in the Education Department's budget to help states and districts develop emergency operations plans and expand access to “counseling and emotional support in schools with pervasive violence,” as well as proven programs that improve behavioral outcomes.
Additionally, the budget includes $100 million for a new School Safety State Grant program. Other requests will be in the Department of Justice’s and the Department of Health and Human Services’ budgets.
Going after after-school programs
The budget request released Monday also aims to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which provides after-school and summer learning programs for students in low-income schools. “We find those programs to be either ineffective, duplicative or better funded by state and local government,” Blew said.
The Trump administration attempted to eliminate the program last year, but opposition from educators and after-school program advocates was intense, and the budget agreement ultimately included $1.21 billion in funding for the program.
Advocacy organizations on Monday, such as the Afterschool Alliance, were already calling on the public to again express their opposition to the cuts to Congress.
“More than 19 million families want and need more after-school and summer learning opportunities,” the organization's website says. “For every child in a program, two are waiting to get in. Closing 10,000+ after-school programs will hurt families and children in every part of the country.”
Other programs slated for elimination — for a total of $6.69 billion — include Full-Service Community Schools ($17.5 million), Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs ($360 million) and Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($1.17 billion), which, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, emphasizes providing students with a more well-rounded education.