Education unions blast Trump’s budget proposal

Stephon Johnson | 2/20/2020, 5:29 p.m.
Judging by Trump’s proposed budget, one could assume the theme is “decimate and accumulate.”
Donald Trump White House photo

Judging by Trump’s proposed budget, one could assume the theme is “decimate and accumulate.” At least some members of the education world feel that way.

Trump’s 2021 budget proposal, which is more than likely to be rejected by Congress, includes cuts to Medicare, Social Security and workforce training. But several cuts and other actions in education raised some eyebrows.

The budget calls for what’s effectively an elimination of the government’s Charter School Program with the intention to have the program lumped into other education department programs including ones that support magnet schools, school safety and homeless students. CSP has used $3.3 billion to fund charter school expansion since the mid-1990s. The lumping in of the program with other educational programs into a single block grant for states to use as they want would cost $19 billion.

Trump administration officials said they want to give state governments more control over where the money goes.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said that these cuts would make educating American children harder.

“The Trump/DeVos budget continues pushing schemes that will result in deep funding cuts to public education, including $5 billion for a private school voucher program that will take already scarce money out of public schools,” said Garcia in a statement. “And 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.”

Along with cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the budget also calls for a reduction in the number of repayment options for student loan borrowers, kills the public service student loan forgiveness program, and reduces “sensible annual and lifetime loan limits for graduate students and parents.”

Coupled with cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income ($75 billion) and to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, this could leave already economic insecure Americans on the brink of poverty and lead to more income inequality.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that student loan debt, cuts to social security and government assistance, reduced/stagnant wages and pushback against increased funding for Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have pushed working people to the brink.

“Working people have an affordability crisis,” stated Weingarten. “Their wages are being squeezed and their costs are going up, yet this budget cuts every social safety net program that would help. It slashes Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drugs; public education; student loan assistance; affordable housing; and food security programs—reflecting the president’s political war on the federal safety net. It also turns the reduced K-12 funding into a $19.4 billion block grant, which is simply code for less funding to the schools and communities that need it most.”

Shawn Fremstad, senior policy fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted that this is just a harbinger of the future should the Republicans ever achieve a majority in the House of Representatives, and that this would leave the most vulnerable Americans in a constant state of desperation. It’s also a reminder of the importance of this presidential election.

“Although this budget has no chance of being adopted by the current Congress, it provides a roadmap that the Trump administration will continue to use in its regulatory war on economic security programs,” said Fremstad in an emailed statement. “The budget proposal is also a reminder of the stark difference in visions that will be on the ballot in November.”