President Trump released his initial budget proposal for FY2018 on Thursday March 16th, which includes devastating cuts to Department of Education funding. Trump’s budget slashes funding by $9 billion (a 13.5% cut) which would set education funding (excluding Pell Grants) levels back to pre-2002 levels in current dollars–in other words before the onset of No Child Left Behind. Public preK-12 and postsecondary enrollment has increased by 8.6 million students since 2001. While the initial budget offering leaves out many details, we do know that Trump’s budget ignores the bipartisan parity principle that has been applied for the last four years between Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) programs and Defense spending. Trump’s budget increases defense by $54 billion while drastically cutting NDD spending like education.
This proposed budget is the opening salvo in the Trump/DeVos school privatization agenda. While the initial budget offering was short on details, it is long on ways to undermine public education. Specifically, the Trump budget adds: $1.4 billion for “school choice,” with plans to ramp up to $20 billion over time; $1 billion for Title I portability; $250 million for a new private school voucher program; and a $168 million increase for charter schools. Meanwhile, the budget eliminates the supporting effective instruction teacher training state grant program (Title II), after school programs, and student grant aid. It also cuts Pell Grant funding, TRIO, GEAR UP, and work student aid.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said it best in her statement on Trump’s budget, “America and our students deserve better. The purpose of investing in public education is to help level the playing field so that children in every ZIP code receive an adequate and equitable education. Regardless, educators will continue to stand up for all students and for the promise of public education. And we expect most members of Congress will agree.”