Trump budget backs CTE, vouchers but angers charter schools

Trump is asking Congress for a $5.6 billion decrease (7.8%) in education spending
By: | February 11, 2020
Under the education budget offered by President Trump Ed Secretary DeVos, federal funding for charter schools could drop while spending on CTE could rise. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Under the education budget offered by President Trump Ed Secretary DeVos, federal funding for charter schools could drop while spending on CTE could rise. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos want to eliminate federal funding for charter schools, increase CTE spending and consolidate most K-12 grant programs into a single block grant that would be dispersed to states.

Trump pitched the idea this week in his education budget proposal, which calls for a $5.6 billion decrease (7.8%) in education spending in fiscal year 2021.

The $19.4 billion Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant Program would be allocated using the same formulas as Title I grants.

If approved by Congress, the new system would give more control to states because “they know best how to serve their students,” DeVos said in a statement.

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“Instead of Washington politicians and bureaucrats forcing local schools to spend limited resources on D.C.’s priorities, this budget proposes putting state and local leaders, teachers, parents, and students themselves in control of education,” DeVos said. “We know states will spend their money differently, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s what we hope they do.”

Proponents of career and technical education commended Trump and DeVos for their proposal to increase CTE funding by $900 million, including $680 million for state grants.

Trump’s budget “recognizes that CTE is a meaningful and high-quality pathway for students across the country,” Sarah Heath, president of Advance CTE and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Colorado Community College System, said in a statement.

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The proposal would also move federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) funding into the block grant program.

This idea met with heavy criticism from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, whose president, Nina Rees, said launching a charter school would become far harder because “it would put too much power in the hands of anti-charter politicians at the state level.”

“The CSP is especially important to single-site school leaders—many of whom are African-American or Hispanic educators seeking to better serve the students of their communities,” Rees said in a statement.

Trump’s proposal would also create “Education Freedom Scholarships” that would provide up to $5 billion in private, voluntary donations to fund private school vouchers. The budget proposal stipulates that this program won’t take funds from federal education spending, but National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said the scholarships, along with the block grants, would hurt students in low-income schools most.

“By turning Every Student Succeeds Act funding for schools into a block grant program, this budget would effectively make deeper cuts to funding for our students in communities with the greatest need,” García said in a statement.

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But in a statement released by The White House, Commissioner Frank Edelblut of the New Hampshire Department of Education, praised the block grant proposal for returning power to states.

“The people who know best what New Hampshire’s students and teachers need are families and educators in New Hampshire,” Edelblut said. “President Trump and Secretary DeVos are right to restore local control and get the federal government out of the way.