Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Education cuts would hurt schools in impoverished rural areas where Trump was the most popular

AFT president Randi Weingarten talks to students
Monday in McDowell County, West Virginia (Quinn photo)
On Monday, Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union, was in McDowell County, West Virginia—one of the nation's poorest counties—where she called President Trump's proposed education cuts "cruel," Ryan Quinn reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Weingarten told Quinn, “It’s catastrophic and it’s really cruel. I mean, these budget cuts are really, really, really cruel.”

Proposed cuts would hurt rural areas in states like West Virginia, where Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton. The budget would reportedly cut federal funding for a national afterschool program that provides kids—like those at Southside K-8 where Weingarten was visiting—with food, education and transportation home afterward, Quinn writes. "The plans would simultaneously put more federal funding toward charter schools and for vouchers students could use to attend private schools, including religious schools."

The budget consists of "a $10.6 billion cut from federal education initiatives, with about $1.4 billion of the savings going to 'school choice' initiatives," Quinn writes. In many rural areas students only have one school to choose from. Cheryl Cruey, a teacher in Southside’s afterschool program, said she didn’t know of any nonpublic schools in McDowell County.

McDowell County,
West Virginia (Wikipedia map)
"Inga Barker, an assistant schools superintendent in McDowell County, said the local public school system has been losing about 100 students annually for at least five to six years," Quinn reports. "She said the drop has been about 120 students this year, and such enrollment drops generally mean automatic cuts in education funding from the state. In West Virginia, state education officials say there’s very little regulation over private schools. And research has been thin on charter schools’ performance specifically in rural areas, which represent much of West Virginia."

"Trump is expected to propose eliminating the $1.2 billion in funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which serves about 1.6 million students nationwide," Quinn writes. AFT said 21st Century grants provided funds for afterschool programs at five schools in McDowell County. Quinn notes, "At Southside, the funding supports two to two-and-a-half hours of afterschool programming four days per week" that served 195 students this school year.

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