Trump has finally released his first full education budget…and the outlook is not good. He and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s budget plan includes cuts to work-study programs, public-service loan forgiveness, and funds for mental illness and advanced courses. So where is all this money going? They’re planning to spend $400 million on school choice, meaning more charter schools and more private, religious schools. Their budget plan will slash funds for low-income students, restructuring financial aid and providing considerably less funding for after school programs.
The Trump administration would dedicate no money to a fund for student support and academic enrichment that is meant to help schools pay for, among other things, mental-health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses and science and engineering instruction. Congress created the fund, which totals $400 million this fiscal year, by rolling together several smaller programs. Lawmakers authorized as much as $1.65 billion, but the administration’s budget for it in the next fiscal year is zero.
The cuts would make space for investments in choice, including $500 million for charter schools, up 50 percent over current funding. The administration also wants to spend $250 million on “Education Innovation and Research Grants,” which would pay for expanding and studying the impacts of vouchers for private and religious schools. It’s not clear how much would be spent on research versus on the vouchers themselves.
There is currently only one federally funded voucher program, in the District of Columbia. A recent Education Department analysis of that program found that after a year in private school, voucher recipients performed worse on standardized tests than their counterparts who remained in public school.
The administration would devote $1 billion in Title I dollars meant for poor children to a new grant program (called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS) for school districts that agree to allow students to choose which public school they attend — and take their federal, state and local dollars with them.