By Michael Stratford
May 23, 2017
BUDGET DAY — WHAT TO WATCH: By now, it’s no secret that President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget, being released today, will be bullish on school choice policies while making cuts elsewhere like federal student loan programs. But today we’ll find out more details about precisely how the White House wants to reduce Education Department spending by more than 13 percent — just a day before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos returns to Capitol Hill where she’ll likely face tough questioning about the administration’s budget proposals.
— Summary budget documents released by the White House last night have started to sketch out Trump’s proposed cuts to federal student loan programs: The administration’s package of proposals to trim, eliminate and consolidate various benefits available to federal student loan borrowers would save taxpayers more than $143 billion over the next decade, according to White House budget tables. Those spending reductions over the next 10 years include: consolidating the federal government’s various income-based repayment programs into a single plan (more than $76 billion); nixing subsidized student loans (nearly $39 billion); and eliminating the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (more than $27 billion). Read more.
— Meanwhile, Head Start is spared drastic cuts: Trump’s budget calls for funding Head Start the same as the 2016 fiscal year but a $85 million reduction from the current 2017 fiscal year — a relatively small cut in the $9.25 billion program. Supporters had been bracing for deep reductions after Trump’s “skinny budget” earlier this year proposed a nearly 18 percent cut overall to Health and Human Services, the agency that houses Head Start. And the Heritage Foundation, which has the ear of the Trump administration and many Congressional Republicans, had called for reducing and eventually eliminating funding for Head Start. But supporters’ lobbying appears to have largely paid off. Save the Children Action Network, for example, earlier this year spent $150,000 on an TV ad campaign targeting Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee overseeing education — and six other House Republicans seeking their support for Head Start.
— Still, there are deep reductions in scientific research funding: Trump’s budget would slash the National Institutes of Health’s funding by nearly $6 billion, which amounts to a nearly 20 percent reduction in line with what was proposed in the “skinny budget”.
— Cutting TRIO programs that “don’t work”: The budget calls for eliminating the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which gives money to colleges to prepare students to pursue doctoral degrees, and Educational Opportunity Centers, which provide counseling on admissions and financial aid to adults who want to enter or return to college. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, singled out the so-called TRIO programs — which altogether are funded at $950 million — during a Monday briefing as an example of the administration’s approach to its budget. “There’s three parts that actually work,” Mulvaney said, specifically citing Upward Bound grants, Talent Search and Student Support Services. “They helped people who would not have gone to college or would not have stayed in college, to graduate. That’s what those programs are designed for. And that’s what I’m comfortable going and asking you for help with.” But the other two, Mulvaney said, don’t work. Benjamin Wermund has more.
— While the budget invests more than $1 billion into expanding school choice, DeVos said in a speech Monday night that the federal government should stay out of the policy. Her remarks come as some conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, have criticized the budget’s investments in school choice, seeing them as an undue expansion of the federal government’s footprint. In a speech to the American Federation for Children’s summit in Indianapolis, DeVos didn’t offer much detail about the Trump administration’s vision for school choice. She didn’t dig into the budget or talk about a federal education tax credit proposal, which the administration has been considering for some time. But as expected, she stressed state flexibility. “We all fundamentally know one size doesn’t fit all,” she said, “and that we won’t accomplish our goals by creating a new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money.” States can choose not to participate in the Trump administration’s “ambitious” plans to expand school choice, DeVos said. But she added, “that would be a terrible mistake on their part.” Caitlin Emma has more.
— More than 55 groups are pushing back on the budget’s proposed elimination of a Title IV block grant created by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The grant, called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant, was originally authorized at $1.6 billion. The money was intended to fund a variety of things, from efforts to improve student health and safety to increasing access to technology. “The president’s decision to eliminate this program –– before districts have received their FY17 SSAE allocations or had a chance to implement the program –– is a clear sign that this administration has no intention of supporting America’s public schools and the 90 percent of students and educators who attend them,” the groups write. “Moreover, this proposed defunding of SSAE stands in stark contrast to both the will of Congress and the President’s publicly stated intentions to provide states and districts enhanced flexibility over education.” Signing onto the statement: the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National PTA, among others.
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