Budget Blast: Trump’s Education Budget – Is it Real?

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Since President Trump released his “skinny budget,” which would slash $9.2B from the Education Department’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, I’ve heard from many SIIA members wondering what the impact is going to be on schools. In short, the impact of the Trump budget on schools is nada. Nothing. This is a budget proposal and not an actual appropriations bill. Every year, the President puts out a budget proposal and every year it is ignored by appropriators in Congress as they develop the actual federal budget and appropriations levels.

We have already heard from leaders in Congress that President Trump’s proposal would have a steep climb on both sides of the aisle if it were ever to be seriously considered. Additionally, outside stakeholders on all sides of education have weighed in with varying levels of concern.

The proposal does however provide the most detailed window into the Trump Administration’s education priorities that we have had to date. So, what does it propose in order to reach $9.2B?

Among other items, the proposal would eliminate:

  • ESSA Title II, Part A Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program ($2.4B) – dealing with teacher prep, professional development, and class size reduction (Report from USED on how Title II funds are used – http://bit.ly/2nSJPbh)
  • ESSA 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($1.2B) – providing after-school and summer programs and parental engagement programs. (Great program overview from EdWeek)
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants ($732M) – need based grants for low-income college students

Additionally, the proposal would cut, amongst other programs, funding for:
  • Pell Grant surplus ($3.9B) – unobligated, carryover funding which would be used to fund year-round Pell
  • TRIO Programs and GEAR UP ($193M) – services for low-income and first-generation college students and college preparation assistance middle and high school students, respectively
  • Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants [aka LEARN] – formerly called Striving Readers, the program is the only targeted literacy intervention program in the ESSA
  • IMPACT Aid – reimbursements to local school districts for federally owned land and buildings for which property tax is not collected (typically around military bases)

Amongst all the cuts, the budget proposal would seek to advance the President’s school choice initiatives by adding $1.4B in school choice initiatives. This would include a $168M increase for charter schools, a new $250M expenditure for a private school choice programs, and a $1B bump for ESSA Title I to be “dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.” While this looks to be a significant step up in Title I funding, given the overall cuts in the proposal and the restricting of the law with ESSA, states and districts likely wouldn’t feel any difference in their budgets.

So, what does the future hold? When will we know what the education funding outlook is for the next year and further? As I noted, the future of this budget proposal is extremely grim. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have already come out with concerns over the non-defense discretionary cuts (which includes education). While the Trump Administration justified its education cuts by claiming program ineffectiveness, most of the programs targeted have bipartisan support, including Title II, literacy grants, IMPACT aid, TRIO, and GEAR UP.

As for timing, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees right now have a pressing matter to deal with before tackling FY18 appropriations and that’s tackling remaining FY17 appropriations. Congress has until April 28 to finalize spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year (ending September 30). We’ll get a clearer picture of FY18 realities likely starting in May.

AND WHAT ABOUT THAT REMAINING FY17? President Trump has called for cutting funding for the remainder of this fiscal year – $3B worth from Title II, school counseling, math science partnerships, and Pell grants. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) in comments has essentially ruled this possibility out though as it looks likely that the remainder of FY17 funding will track closely, if not identically, to the first half of the fiscal year.

Stay tuned to SIIA for more exciting education budget and appropriations news. We’ll put out a new Budget Blast whenever budgetary news arises!