Trump budget II: More proposed cuts, more money for school choice

President Trump’s second education budget proposal is a lot like his first one, in terms of spending priorities.

Overall, Trump wants to cut education spending — but shift big dollars into school choice.

Trump on Monday proposed a $63.2 billion Education Department budget, a 5 percent decrease. But the budget contains two line items designed to encourage school choice. A $1 billion Opportunity Grants program would allow states to apply for scholarship dollars that low-income families could use to offset private school tuition costs. A $500 million line item would go toward new charter schools; this represents a $160 million increase from current funding levels.

“The president’s budget request expands education freedom for America’s families while protecting our nation’s most vulnerable students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday. “The budget also reflects our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating and eliminating ineffective federal programs that are better handled at the state or local level.”

On the chopping block are two line items Trump targeted a year ago. The White House again wants to zero out Title II teacher training grants and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, saving $3.1 billion, Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week reported Monday.

Both of these programs are in common use in Idaho. In 2016-17, 144 of Idaho’s 153 school districts and charters used $10 million in Title II money for teacher training, while the 21st Century program has bankrolled more than 40 after-school and summer programs across the state.

Two of the initial reactions weren’t surprising.

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“President Trump and Secretary DeVos’ budget poses a lethal threat to public education,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Trump and DeVos gave trillions in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and, in this budget, they are taking billions from kids and public schools — particularly from those kids and schools in communities whose majorities are nonwhite or poor.”

“If we are to meet the needs and expectations of our nation’s students and their families for high-quality public school choices, Congress must prioritize robust new financing tools tailored to the needs of charter schools,” said the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which called the $500 million charter line item “a step in the right direction.”

 

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