Thursday, May 18, 2017

Education budget has big cuts, pushes school choice; would ax rural public-career program

The Trump administration's proposed education budget would cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives and spend "about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies," Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report for The Washington Post. School choice favors urban areas, because in many rural areas there is only one school to choose from and charter schools are unlikely. Trump was particularly popular in rural areas during the presidential election.

"Local news media should check with their school districts to see how they would be affected," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, publisher of The Rural Blog.

The proposed budget also ends a loan-forgiveness program for public servants, the Post reports. Enacted in 2007, it "was designed to encourage college graduates to pursue careers as social workers, teachers, public defenders or doctors in rural areas. There are at least 552,931 people on track to receive the benefit, with the first wave of forgiveness set for October. It’s unclear how the proposed elimination would affect those borrowers." (Post graphic: Percentage of rural public schools in each state)
The Trump administration "would devote $1 billion in Title I dollars meant for poor children to a new grant program (called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS) for school districts that agree to allow students to choose which public school they attend—and take their federal, state and local dollars with them," reports the Post. "The goal is to do away with neighborhood attendance zones that the administration says trap needy kids in struggling schools."

"But the notion of allowing Title I dollars to follow the student—known as 'portability'— is a controversial idea that the Republican-led Senate rejected in 2015," reports the Post. "Many Democrats argue that it is a first step toward private-school vouchers and would siphon dollars from schools with high poverty to those in more affluent neighborhoods."

The proposed budget also cuts at least 22 programs, including "$1.2 billion for after-school programs that serve 1.6 million children, most of whom are poor, and $2.1 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction," reports the Post. Also cut would be "a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs."

"Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly," the Post notes. "Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent)."

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