NSTA Legislative Update: President Releases Education Budget for FY21 Programs by Jodi Peterson

The Trump Administration released its education budget for FY2021 last week, and it was immediately and rounded criticized by education advocates and denounced by Democratic lawmakers.

The president is proposing a 7.8 percent cut to U.S. Department of Education programs. The $66.6 billion request represents a $5.6 billion reduction from the department’s enacted 2020 funding level and is part of the Administration’s plan to cut billions in non-defense spending.

Further, the budget seeks combine 29 K-12 grant programs into a $19.4 billion unified block grant, called the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant.  This represents a $4.7 billion cut from the enacted FY2020 funding levels for these combined programs. It would affect practically every program under the Every Student Succeeds Act, including ESSA Titles IVA, ESSA Title II, ESSA Title I, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

The proposed Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant would be allocated through existing Title I grant formulas and could be used to support any activity supported by the consolidated programs.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the new block grant would “end education earmarks” and transform how states use federal dollars in a way that aligns with the federal education law.  

Education advocates were not happy with this budget. In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the block grant proposal was “simply code for less funding to the schools and communities that need it most.”

The Title IVA Coalition (NSTA is a member) released this statement shortly after the budget was released: “While we are not surprised by the President’s failure to provide adequate funding for public education programs under the Every Student Succeeds Act, we are deeply concerned that the FY21 budget proposal would violate congressional intent. The proposal aims to consolidate 29 discretionary education programs and combine them into a singular block grant while failing to provide equal to or more funding for the existing programs, resulting in a net cut. Specifically, we are dismayed that this Administration would cut Title IV-A of ESSA, the strongly bipartisan flexible block grant that provides funding for safe and healthy students, well-rounded programs, and the effective use of educational technology. Sadly, this budget is yet another demonstration of the Administration’s complete lack of commitment to the success of the public education system and lack of respect for Congressional intent.”

The administration’s budget also includes plans for Education Freedom Scholarships that would create a $5 billion federal tax credit for donations to scholarship-granting organizations to pay for students to attend private schools or expand their public education options. Legislation to authorize these scholarships has been introduced in the House as H.R. 1434 (116) and the Senate as S. 634 (116).

The budget also proposes a $900 million increase for career and technical education programs. In a fact sheet, the White House Office of Management and Budget states this increase “would help ensure that all American high schools offer high-quality vocational training programs and that all students have access to pathways other than costly 4 year degrees to well-paying jobs.”

The President budget is seeking $931 million for the National Science Foundation Education and Human Resources Directorate, and is calling for eliminating funding for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement.

In previous years, Congress has largely rejected the attempts by the Administration to cut funding for specific education programs.  NSTA will be working with other advocates throughout the year urging Congress to increase funding for vital education programs such as Title IVA, Title II, and Title I.

The budget tracker developed by our friends at the STEM Education Coalition is below.

Program FY2019 Omnibus POTUS FY2020 Request FY2020 Minubus POTUS FY2021 Request
ESSA Title I-A Grants to Local Education Agencies $15.86B $15.86B $16.30B $0 (consol.)
ESSA Title II SupportingEffective Instruction Grants $2.05B $0 $2.13B $0 (consol.)
Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants $1.17B $0 $1.21B $0 (consol.)
Title IVB 21st Century Community Learning Centers $1.22B $0 $1.25B $0 (consol.)
ESEA Formula and Competitive Block Grant1 n/a n/a n/a $19.36B
National Science Foundation’s Education and Human Resources Directorate $916M $823M $940M $931M
NASA STEM Engagement $110M $0 $120M $0
Career and Technical Education State Grants $1.26B $1.26B $1.28B $1.96B
Education Innovation and Research Program $130M $300M $130M $0 (consol.)

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1In their FY2021 request, the administration proposed to “consolidate nearly all currently funded formula and competitive grant programs authorized by ESSA into a single state formula grant program.”

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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