President Donald Trump released his administration’s first budget proposal on Thursday, March 16. The proposal includes a 13.5 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Department of Education; amounting to $9 billion less in funds than the previous year.
The full text of the budget proposal can be viewed online here.
The budget proposal also reflects the administration’s support of vouchers and school choice. It includes $250 million for a new private school-choice initiative that could provide vouchers for use at private schools; $168 million in increased funding for charter schools, and $1 billion in Title I funding that would encourage state and local districts to use the funds for a system that enables federal, state and local funding to “follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.”
Many local New Jersey districts, particularly those in more affluent areas, would not be hurt as much by the federal cuts as those in states that receive a higher percentage of funding from the federal government. However, New Jersey districts serving students from low-income families would feel the impact. The budget proposal, as currently written, could also affect impact aid, federal payments to districts that have a large federal presence, such as a military base, within their borders. Impact aid reimburses schools for lost tax revenue from those tax-exempt federal properties.
Several programs would be eliminated under the budget proposal, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, which provides federal grants for before and after school programs, and summer programs; as well as a program that provides grants for teacher training. Funding for approximately 20 departmental programs would be cut or eliminated under the current proposal.
“The administration’s proposed budget cuts to education are most disappointing and would hurt public education immeasurably,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “They would prevent schools from accomplishing the core goal of every educator: helping each child to reach his or her full potential.”
The budget proposal also has an impact on higher education. Funding for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants for low-income college students would be cut, as would federal money for college work-study programs for low-income students. In addition, a federal program to prepare low-income students for college would be eliminated.
The federal spending plan still needs Congressional approval, and it is likely there will be changes in the proposal. The budget details the spending for federal fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1, 2017.
“Congressional approval of the president’s budget proposal is often contentious,” said Michael Vrancik, NJSBA director of governmental relations. “In the current federal fiscal cycle, no formal budget proposal has yet been enacted. Rather the federal government is operating under a series of continuing resolutions. The most recent one, passed in December 2016, expires April 28, 2017.”