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June 16, 2017

Trump administration slashes education budget to fund school choice

  • The Trump administration’s proposed budget, released on May 22, 2017, included deep cuts to a large number of federal agencies and initiatives which sought to compensate for trillions of dollars in tax cuts, a sizable military buildup and a renewed investment in infrastructure.
  • The budget that the White House released is a wish list only — Congress can pass spending and appropriations bills.
  • The budget proposed to significantly reduce Education Department spending by approximately $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent. It is the biggest proposed cut since the Reagan administration attempted to significantly scale back department spending in the 1980s. The cuts would be spread across K-12 and higher education.
  • Most of the cuts to existing Education Department programs would fund a $1 billion grant program to provide K-12 students with vouchers to leave neighborhood schools for other public schools or private schools. This idea is known as “school choice” and is heavily promoted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
  • Many opponents to school choice are concerned that it would siphon money from poorer public schools to wealthier public schools or even private and religious schools.
  • The education budget for fiscal year 2018 can be found here; below are some of the most significant and hotly debated propositions.

  1. State grants for career and technical education (CTE) would be cut by $166 million and funding for the $1 billion federal work-study program would be cut in half.
  2. It would seek to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and provide vouchers for private and religious schools as well as an additional $1 billion to encourage states to adopt school choice-friendly policies.
  3. Many smaller programs aimed at specific populations of students would be axed. These cuts would include $12 million for talented and gifted student programs, $12 million for the Special Olympics, $65 million for Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native students and $27 million for arts education.
  4. Federal student loan programs would face significant reductions. The budget would take steps to end federal subsidies for student loans. Currently, for students who qualify, the government pays interest on student loans while they are still in school.
  5. In addition, the public service loan forgiveness program, in which about half a million people are enrolled, would be eliminated. It allows public servants — such as teachers, firefighters, doctors and people engaged in government work — to have the remainder of their student loans forgiven after 10 years of regular qualifying payments.
  6. A small program for child care for college students additionally faces funding removal.
  7. Former Secretary of Education John King, who served under the Obama administration, called the education budget “an assault on the American dream” and said that it would make it more difficult for students to attend and finish college.
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