Legislative Update: Administration Budget Request Would (Again) Cut Funding for Key Ed Programs

President Trump submitted his budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 programs last week and, as expected, discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be cut significantly for FY20 programs that would begin this October. 

The President is requesting $62 billion for the Education Department for FY2020 fiscal year — a 12 percent reduction when compared with current funding.  He proposes to eliminate funding for 29 education programs, including funding for ESSA Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($1.17 billion); Title II-Supporting Effective Instruction state grants ($2.1 billion); 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($1.2 billion). Title I funding and funding for IDEA (special education grants) would be level-funded.

This is the third year that the Administration has sought to cut ED’s budget. Fortunately, thanks to continued advocacy and voices from education community, Congress has repeatedly denied the Administration these cuts in funding.  As you will recall, Congress raised Title IV spending from $400 million to $1.1 billion in FY2018.

The FY20 budget request also includes a 10-year school choice program (Education Freedom Scholarships) that would create up to $5 billion a year in new tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships that help students pay private school tuition or other education expenses

According to the Department of Education, the budget request also contains $300 million for Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grants, a $170 million increase from fiscal 2019. Of this amount, $200 million would be used for demonstration projects to “improve the quality and effectiveness of classroom instruction by empowering teachers to select their own professional development activities” and $100 million would be used for field-initiated projects that would promote innovation and reform in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, including computer science.

The Administration is also requesting $200 million for Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants that would “help develop, implement, improve, or expand human capital management systems or performance-based compensation systems. New awards would support mentoring or residencies for novice teachers or increased compensation for effective teachers, particularly in high-need fields and subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In a statement Education Secretary DeVos said “this budget at its core is about education freedom — freedom for America’s students to pursue their life-long learning journeys in the ways and places that work best for them, freedom for teachers to develop their talents and pursue their passions and freedom from the top-down ‘Washington knows best’ approach that has proven ineffective and even harmful to students.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, responded by saying “Secretary DeVos is proposing gutting investments in students, teachers, public schools, and even school safety—all to make room for her extreme privatization proposal that no one asked for. This is not a serious budget proposal, and I am going to once again work with Republicans in Congress to ensure every student has access to a quality public education in their neighborhood.”

In a statement the Title IVA Coalition (NSTA is on the board of this Coalition) said,

 “For the third year in a row, we are deeply disappointed by the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal to eliminate funding for the (ESSA Title IVA)  SSAE grant program despite districts finally being able to make use of these funds in a flexible and meaningful way to support students. The SSAE grant program under Title IV-A of ESSA is a flexible block grant that is designed to provide support for much needed student health and safety programs, well-rounded education programs, and the effective use of education technology.

“The Administration’s decision to zero out funding for this program—just as districts are utilizing the $1.1 billion Congress provided in FY18 and before the Department of Education has done any data collection on how states and districts are using these funds to support critical school and student needs—shows a complete lack of commitment to the success of the program.

“We find it contradictory of the Administration and the Secretary to routinely highlight the value of SSAE block grant by pointing to the value of the program in its reports (most recently, the Federal Commission on School Safety highlighted this program as a way of improving social emotional learning, school climate, and student safety) and speaking publicly about the flexibility and local control this program offers to districts to use funds based on their unique needs—but continuously call for the complete elimination of funding. Proposing no funding for the SSAE program for FY2020 reiterates the message this Administration continues sending to public schools: that it does not value investments in programs that make students safer at school, improve school climate, provide access to courses like AP, computer science, STEM, CTE, music and the arts, PE, or ensuring educators are prepared to use technology for blended and digital learning.

“Defunding the SSAE program stands in stark contrast with the will of Congress, which recognizes the value of this investment, and we are thankful for the $1.1 billion in FY18 and $1.17 billion in FY19 appropriated over the last two years. In order to give districts the opportunity to continue making effective use of these funds to improve the lives of students, we sincerely urge Congress to fund the SSAE grant program at its authorized level of $1.6 billion.”

Read more here and here.

Dems File Resolution that No Federal Funds Be Used to Train or Arm Teachers

Last week  Democratic lawmakers in both the Senate and House, including teacher U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (CT-5),  introduced a resolution, S. Res. 110 (116), to “clarify” that the Department of Education cannot allow school districts to use federal funds to train or arm teachers with firearms.  Specifically, the resolution says that the funding under Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act can only be used for policies that will lead to weapons-free schools.

Watch the press conference here.

STEM for Girls

And finally, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would create and expand upon STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation for young children, including new research grants to increase the participation of girls in computer science.  Read more about the Building Blocks of STEM Act.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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