Federal spending on the U.S. Department of Education appears poised to fall in the coming year, but the Republican-controlled Congress may break with President Donald Trump on a host of the president’s top K-12 priorities, including a federal school choice program.
That news comes from Education Week Tuesday, with U.S. lawmakers entangled in budget negotiations that, for the moment, would appear to guarantee at least a $60 million cut for the country’s top K-12 agency, now overseen by controversial school choice champion Betsy DeVos.
The negotiations come as lawmakers seek to stave off a potential government shutdown.
From Education Week:
Federal lawmakers have agreed to relatively small spending increases for Title I programs to districts and for special education, as part of a budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 through the end of September.
Title I spending on disadvantaged students would rise by $100 million up to $15.5 billion from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017, along with $450 million in new money that was already slated to be shifted over from the now-defunct School Improvement Grants program.
And state grants for special education would increase by $90 million up to $12 billion. However, Title II grants for teacher development would be cut by $294 million, down to about $2.1 billion for the rest of fiscal 2017.
The bill would also provide $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, also known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV is a block grant that districts can use for a wide range of programs, including health, safety, arts education, college readiness, and more.
Total U.S. Department of Education spending, including both discretionary and mandatory spending covering K-12 and other issues, would fall by $60 million from fiscal 2016, down to $71.6 billion.
One key takeaway is that, while progressive K-12 advocates aren’t likely to receive the GOP-authored budget warmly, the proposals floating in D.C. this week would appear to offer some sign that President Trump’s suggestions of a completely dismantled federal education department don’t seem to be resonating with Congressional Republicans.
Congress also seems reluctant to back the president’s campaign promise of a massive federal investment in school choice programs, sure to be a top priority for DeVos as well.
More from Education Week:
For example, in the fiscal 2018 budget proposal (Trump) released several weeks ago, the president also sought to eliminate just over $1 billion in support for 21st Century Community Learning Centers in fiscal 2018. However, this budget deal for fiscal 2017 would give the program a relatively small boost of $25 million up to nearly $1.2 billion. Trump had also wanted to cut Title II funding in half in fiscal 2017, far more than this agreement, before eliminating it entirely in fiscal 2018.
And programs designed to serve needy students like TRIO and GEAR UP would also get small increases in this fiscal 2017 deal. Several of Trump’s proposed fiscal 2017 cuts were to programs that had already been consolidated under ESSA.
The budget deal doesn’t appear to include a new federal school choice program, a top K-12 priority for the Trump administration, although Trump’s request for such a program appears in his fiscal 2018 proposal and not his fiscal 2017 blueprint.
Of course, it’s worth noting such negotiations are often extremely fluid. Continue to stay tuned.