One of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to bend the federal budget for education and other programs to his will, and on Thursday he released a spending blueprint that aims to carry through on his slash-the-government vision.
If his plans for the U.S. Department of Education come to pass, they would likely have a big impact on K-12 districts around the country—and in all probability, they would shape the work of companies trying to do business with schools in technology and other areas.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget—only a rough outline of which was unveiled this week—would cut the department of education’s funding by 13 percent from the current year, or $9 billion, from $68 billion to $59 billion.
Because many of the administration’s plans have not yet been made public, it’s hard to know what the exact brunt of the cuts would be for K-12 businesses. But the magnitude of the proposed reductions means that if they were enacted, state and local officials would almost certainly have to scramble to fill holes in their budgets caused by the loss of federal money, diminishing their ability to spend money on technology and other needs.
The cuts would “cause school officials to reshuffle funding that would otherwise support educational technology,” said Reg Leichty, the founder of a Washington law firm, Foresight Law + Policy, who advises companies, districts, and others on federal policy. “It’s rough for education, generally, and it hits ed-tech, specifically, as well.”
But Leichty also believes Congress—even though it is controlled by members of Trump’s Republican party—is likely to reject many of the cuts, which could spare K-12 districts from some of the pain. Congressional deliberations on a budget could take months.
As written, Trump’s proposed budget calls for:
- Zeroing out the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, a major source of funding for professional development in K-12 districts;
- Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, which backs before and after-school programs, cutting $1.2 billion from the current year’s level.
- The “elimination or reduction” or more than 20 categorical programs with the department that “do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with state, local, or private funds.” Only a few of the programs named specifically: Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and international education programs.
- Maintaining $13 billion for federal funding for students with disabilities;
- Raising spending on public and private school choice—a stated priority of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—by $1.4 billion. The new investment would include $168 million in additional spending on charter schools and $250 million for a new private school choice program.
The choice plan would also pay for $1 billion to channel Title I funds for disadvantaged schools into school choice programs allowing for “open enrollment” and “local funding to follow the student”—the latter language is typically used to describe private-school vouchers. (On the Politics K-12 blog, my colleague Alyson Klein says this proposal seems aimed at ensuring “portability” of Title I funds, an idea that some conservatives have been pushing for years.)
The effect of cutting Title II programs would be “devastating” for districts, damaging their support for teacher training, Leichty said. That program supports many forms of technology use in professional development; it also backs other priorities, such as training educators on how to use data, as is allowed under the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama in late 2015.
The 21st Century Community program also supports efforts to promote deeper learning through technology, he added.
Many uncertainties remain with Trump’s budget blueprint. The Every Student Succeeds Act, for instance, authorizes a $1.6 billion program through Title IV block grants that give the districts the flexibility to spend a portion of that money on ed-tech, among other priorities.
While the status of that potential money—which are strongly backed by ed-tech advocates—is not known, “it’s hard to imagine this administration supporting important ed-tech funds like Title IV block grants, in this environment,” said Leichty.
Check back on Marketplace K-12 over the coming weeks and months for more details on the federal budget for education and its impact on K-12 providers.
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- ESSA’s Teacher-Quality Grant: Everything You Need to Know
- ESSA Opens Up Opportunities for New, Different PD