News, Trump Administration

Report: Trump education budget slams the working class that helped elect him president

Donald Trump speaking

President Trump’s newly-released K-12 budget would hurt the working class voters who helped elect him president in November, according to a new report from The Atlantic.

The report comes with Trump announcing plans to slash spending on the federal education department by more than $9 billion as the Republican president seeks to bolster the school choice programs touted by Trump and his controversial education chief, Betsy DeVos.

That’s not surprising. Trump has long been outspoken in his desire to increase the federal investment in charters and private schools, although his budget’s call to slash $166 million in U.S. grants for career and technical education programs and halve the size of a federal work-study program are being viewed as something of a surprise, particularly given widespread support for such programs among both Republicans and Democrats.

From The Atlantic:

Trump’s education budget, which was published Tuesday as part of full spending plan’s release, would eliminate more than two dozen programs. The budget “reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money,” DeVos said in a statement. “It ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes.”

The final version reiterates many of the funding priorities outlined in the  “skinny”—i.e., preliminary—budget released in March, which had already made it clear that Trump wanted to get rid of the relatively small education programs that, in the eyes of the administration, lack the evidence and reach needed to prove they’re worthy of investment. The congressional deal struck at the beginning of this month to keep the government running into September, on the other hand, maintains level funding for many of the education programs Trump wants to do away with or trim down.

Tamara Hiler, a senior policy adviser at the centrist think tank Third Way, described the White House budget as “tone deaf,” pointing to the $1.3 billion program that provides grants to states for career and technical education as an example. “The fact that [Trump] would want to move money away from … career and technical education into something that is not even going to benefit many of his voters is befuddling,” she said, alluding to the limited access to school choice in the rural communities that helped secure the president’s victory.

Indeed, CTE dovetails neatly with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message, and with his campaign promise to prioritize workforce development and job creation in the United States. Take his priorities around infrastructure: CTE is helping to grow the workforce that’s key to making those goals a reality, from programs in design and engineering to those in construction and manufacturing. “These are the very elements of the rebuilding-America agenda,” said Kimberly Green, the director of the advocacy group Advance CTE, and “are the very things CTE programs help prepare people for successful careers in.” DeVos for her part emphasized the importance of CTE throughout her confirmation hearing—perhaps because it serves as an effective example of school choice.

Once known as vocational education, CTE today is often marketed as a practical, skills-focused path into the workforce for high-schoolers, particularly those who aren’t interested in the traditional college experience. Research on its impact is mixed, though recent studies suggest that program quality is improving—and that it’s a worthwhile option for students who are drawn to technical fields, including those who might otherwise be at risk for dropping out. A study published last year by the right-leaning Fordham Institute, for example, found that students in Arkansas who participated in a concentrated CTE program were more likely to graduate from high school than otherwise identical students who didn’t participate in such a program.

Of course, given the ambivalent response from top budget Republicans already, the whole thing may be a moot point.

Meanwhile, critics hammered the president over his calls to drastically slash entitlement programs Tuesday, arguing that his spending plan prioritizes the needs of the wealthy over the working class and poor.

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