President Trump’s proposed federal budget, unveiled Monday, calls for major cuts to existing education programs and a huge increase for school-choice initiatives. The first question stemming from his blueprint is this: How seriously will Congress take his administration’s plan, even with Republicans controlling both chambers?
If history is any indicator, the answer could well be “not very,” as presidential budgets and what Congress ultimately approves can be farther apart than Norway and Tonga in the Winter Olympics medal count. Lawmakers already have their own budget deal (albeit one that still needs to secure a final vote) setting general parameters for spending, including on both K-12 and higher education. While the fine print needs to be hammered out by Congress amid fierce lobbying by special-interest groups, so far it doesn’t reflect much of what Trump is proposing.
That being said, what a president lays out as his priorities can inform debate on education spending. And since Trump doesn’t spend much time talking about education, this is also one way to gauge what’s on his administration’s agenda.
The first cut is the deepest. Trump’s budget would significantly reduce the federal footprint in public schools, said Anne Hyslop, an education-policy analyst who worked for the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration. Discretionary spending by the Education Department would be cut by 5.3 percent, about $3.6 billion off a $63 billion pot. Two programs would see the steepest cuts: Title II—used in part to recruit and retain teachers and support principals—and the 21st Century Learning Centers block grants, which pay for enrichment programs during non-school hours, particularly in high-poverty communities.