What to Know About Education Funding in Trump's Budget Request

From Early Ed to Higher Ed, here is our take on Trump's Proposed Budget to Congress
Blog Post
Flickr / Gage Skidmore
March 12, 2019

The following blog post breaks down President Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget request. It is broken down by the topic areas that New America prioritizes in the education space, from infant to adult. We provide the questions we still have as we await more information from the Administration about the proposal.

This week, President Trump submitted to Congress his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020. As with 2017 and 2018, the budget is unlikely to be passed by lawmakers in anything close to its current form. In fact, with Democrats in control of the House for the first time in years, there is even less chance of Trump’s proposals gaining traction.

But this annual exercise does provide the President a chance to signal his priorities. And when it comes to public education and domestic programs that support families with children, this year’s proposal makes cuts of between 10 and 12 percent to the U.S. Department of Education budget and proposes to eliminate $6.7 billion in programs.

As we await more details, here is what we know so far—and a host of questions we have —related to some topics we track at New America from early education to higher education to adult learning.

Early Education

What the President proposed:

In a time when vulnerable families have a tough time paying for the increasing costs of quality child care, the Administration’s budget proposal only maintains funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start.

As in past years, the budget calls for the elimination of the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program (part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known currently as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)). At the end of 2018, nearly every state was awarded a grant under this program to conduct a birth-to-5 needs assessment and to develop a strategic plan to meet early care and education needs.

The budget proposal also includes $1 billion (one-time money) to provide states with funds to increase child care supply and encourage employers to invest in child care. Below, we share questions we have about these funds. According to an NPR article about this proposal, one aim for this proposed money is reducing state regulations that are unnecessary and costly.

With substantial cuts to Medicaid, after school programs, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, in addition to changes to other programs, such as SNAP, that make it more difficult for families to access crucial services and supports, the Administration’s budget is not a win for families.

Questions we have:

There are very few details on the Administration’s proposed child care supply fund. Given this ambiguity, here are our questions:

  • Who will be included in the process to determine what regulations should be eliminated?
  • How will the Administration ensure that the new supply of child care will be high-quality and the requirement to streamline regulations not jeopardize children’s health and safety?
  • Given the proposed cuts to other family support programs, how will children’s development and health be impacted?

Elementary and Secondary Education

Educator Quality

What the President proposed:

As in its 2017 and 2018 budget requests, the Administration’s 2019 proposal calls for stripping a substantial amount of the current funding that supports elementary and secondary education teachers. This includes the elimination of the $2.1 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (more frequently referred to as Title II, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), which funds teachers’ ongoing professional development (PD), class size reduction, and other efforts to improve the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. It also eliminates the $75 million Supporting Effective Educator Development program (SEED), which supports teacher recruitment, training, and PD.

Instead, the President’s budget proposal outlines a new $300 million investment in “Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grants.” The EIR grants would provide $200 million for demonstration projects to provide teachers with professional development stipends, or “PD vouchers,” to select their own personalized PD activities. They would also include $100 million for “field-initiated projects that would promote innovation and reform in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).”

The Trump Administration also targets educator funding in the Higher Education Act (HEA). The proposal eliminates the $43 million Teacher Quality Partnership grant program (TQP) which supports innovation in teacher preparation by competitively funding partnerships with high-need school districts to better serve their students.

Despite proposing elimination of the program in the past, the Administration’s budget retains funding for Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSLI) Grants, which are intended to support performance-based compensation and human capital management systems for teachers and school leaders, at its current levels ($200 million). However, the budget request indicates that $110 million of this funding would be for “new awards that would support (1) high quality mentoring or residencies for novice teachers or (2) increased compensation for effective teachers, particularly in high-need fields and subjects.”

Questions we have:

The Administration’s rationale in the past for eliminating programs funding teacher professional development has been that there isn’t sufficient evidence of impact to warrant their continuation, although much of the PD teachers had engaged with historically has not been high-quality. Given this, here are our questions among others about TSLI grants:

  • How would the Administration ensure teachers engage in higher quality PD as part of this PD voucher demonstration project, and how would they measure its impact?
  • Would the TSLI grant guidelines for residencies be similar to those currently included in the TQP grants the Administration proposes to eliminate?
  • How would the new awards for performance-based compensation differ from those currently funded under the TSLI grant, if at all? How would the Administration define what is high-quality?

English Learners

What the President proposed:

The budget proposal leaves funding for English learners (ELs) flat at $737.4 million. Funding for ELs has been stuck at this amount since 2015 despite increases in the EL student population and language in ESSA authorizing year-to-year increases until reaching $884,959,633 by fiscal year 2020. Current funding levels amount to around $150/per student and many districts report that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of EL students.

The lack of attention to the needs of EL students is not surprising given the Administration’s stance towards immigration and immigrant families and communities.

Questions we have:

  • How can a flat budget for ELs address the needs of ELs, who are among the fastest growing populations with some of lowest graduation rates?
  • Will Congress provide increased funding for EL students at the level authorized in ESSA?

School Choice Programs

What the President proposed:

The President’s proposal includes a new federal tax credit program (“Education Freedom Scholarships”) that would cost $50 billion, or $5 billion a year over 10 years, “for donations to scholarship programs for families of elementary and secondary students who are seeking State-defined public or private education options,” which is described in the budget document as an unprecedented level of resources” for school choice.

The blueprint also includes a new $50 million request for “Student-Centered Funding Incentive grants,” to encourage local educational agencies (LEAs) to participate in a pilot program under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that gives LEAs flexibility to consolidate federal funds with state and local funds with fewer requirements for their use.

The Administration also proposes doubling funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program ($30 million total), and increasing the Charter Schools Program funding by $60 million to $500 million.

Questions we have:

Tax credit programs have been criticized in the past for both providing boosts to well-off taxpayers and for moving money from public school districts by promoting publicly-funded enrollment in private schools.

  • In addition to questions that emerge about how to ensure that public education is not harmed by such a program, how would these programs be structured to ensure that private programs are held accountable in the same ways that public schools are?
  • Related to the Student-Centered Funding Incentive Grants, why does the Administration believe financial incentives are necessary to get LEAs to take advantage of the flexibility already offered to them under current ESEA law?
  • How would the Department communicate with, support, and monitor LEAs to ensure that low-income students, students of color, and students with special learning needs are not disadvantaged by the use of student-centered funding initiatives?

Afterschool Programs and Other Enrichment

What the President proposed:

For the past two years, President Trump has proposed to eliminate programs for after school and other enrichment programs under Title IV (21st Century Schools) of ESEA, and his request for fiscal year 2020 continues that theme. As Education Week noted, funding for “safe schools” programs typically comes from these Title IV funding streams, and after the shooting massacre at Parkland High School in Florida last February, Congress rebuked Trump’s suggestion by significantly boosting Title IV funding instead.

The Administration has proposed eliminating the $1.2 billion Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) program, a new program that was put into place by Congress to give school districts greater flexibility in using federal funds. Under this program, districts could choose to use funds for college and career counseling, after school STEM activities, arts, and civics. They could also use the funds to support drug and violence prevention, mental health, and physical education, or to increase access to technology and to targeted professional development opportunities.

Other programs slated for elimination under Title IV include the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which provides grants to communities for out-of-school-time programs serving students in high-poverty and low-performing schools. Programs provide academic enrichment to help students meet state and local standards, as well as activities to complement the regular academic program, such as hands-on STEM education, financial literacy, art, and sports. See this post to learn more about the impact of eliminating 21st CCLC.

Questions we have:

Both programs—SSAEG and 21st CCLC—provide funding for afterschool programs that provide key learning time for young students, enabling children to experience more flexible, social, hands-on, and project-based activities. Moreover, families need after school programs to ensure that their children are in a safe place until the end of the work day. These programs also provide funding for academic enrichment, college and career counseling, and school safety. If Title IV funding is eliminated, alternative funding sources would need to be tapped to continue providing critical services for students and families. The Trump Administration suggests the funds can come from Title I—the largest program under ESEA—but Title I is not slated for an increase in the budget.

  • If Title I funds are not increased, where would funding for the variety of services provided under these programs come from?

Higher Education

What the President proposed:

The higher education side of the budget didn’t include much in the way of new proposals. But the Administration reiterated its support for extending Pell Grants to short-term programs as brief as eight weeks. As Kevin Carey wrote in The New York Times last week, there’s little evidence to suggest programs that short lead to positive outcomes for students--and a significant risk of equity concerns as such programs disproportionately enroll low-income students and students of color. And the budget request stated that such programs should be high-quality -- a tall order, given that the Department itself is in the process of slow-walking and eliminating existing rules to hold for-profit and certificate programs accountable for poor labor market outcomes relative to their costs. The Administration also pledged to work with Congress on a risk-sharing proposal to hold colleges more accountable for their outcomes.

And as in previous years, the budget would cut funding to Federal Work-Study, get rid of the SEOG program, eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on Subsidized Stafford loans, and kill the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. And it would increase funding for improvements to student loan servicing through NextGen, an ambitious plan to overhaul the servicing environment that has stalled several times in response to pushback from lawmakers and current servicers.

Questions we have:

The Administration recently let an agreement to measure labor-market outcomes of for-profit and certificate programs expire, and is proposing to eliminate accountability for those rules. It’s unclear what the Department believes high-quality short-term programs look like, or whether it would enforce those standards in any case.

  • How would the Department propose to ensure Pell dollars only go to high-quality short-term programs?

Adult & Skills Education

What the President proposed:

Several programs that focus on promoting skills among adults are implicated in Trump’s budget request. For example, while the President’s budget proposal includes level funding (at $1.26 billion) for career and technical education (CTE) state grants, it requests $20 million for CTE national programs (an increase of $12.6 million over fiscal year 2019 funding), which will support Innovation and Modernization grants authorized by the new Perkins CTE law passed by Congress in July 2018. The budget request also includes a legislative proposal to double the American Competitiveness and Improvement Act fee for the H-1B visa program, through which employers can temporarily fill job openings in specialized fields like science, engineering and information technology with highly skilled foreign professionals. Under the proposal, 15 percent of the revenue generated through the H-1B fees would be allocated to support CTE grants to states. While the budget also indicates that increased H-1B funds would also support apprenticeship, it doesn’t provide any specifics.

Under the President’s proposed budget, adult education programs—designed in part to improve literacy and numeracy skills; assist adults in completing secondary school; and prepare them for successful transition to postsecondary education and work—would take a big hit. The President’s budget proposes a $156.1 million or 24-percent cut to adult education state grants (currently funded at $642 million). While the budget proposal calls for a $60 million increase for adult education national leadership activities to support State efforts to create pre-apprenticeship programs for low-skilled adults, this dollar amount far exceeds the $15 million limit that Congress authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The Administration also requests $160 million for apprenticeship, the same amount that was allocated in fiscal year 2019. Similar to last year’s budget request, the President is calling for significant investments into industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), intended to run parallel to Register Apprenticeship programs established under 29 CFR 29, which are widely considered the gold standard for earn-and-learn training models.

Questions we have:

With numerous changes proposed and new investments requested, we will watch for details next week. We have one big question so far:

  • Will the President’s proposed investments in the rapid expansion of IRAPs pull valuable resources from Register Apprenticeship programs established under 29 CFR 29?

U.S. Department of Education programs slated for elimination

This table below lists the programs slated to be eliminated. (The table and details on each program can also be found starting on page 49 of the Department of Education’s budget summary). The Administration argues that the programs are duplicative because they can be paid for with Title I funding, but the budget proposal does not call for any new funding for Title I for fiscal year 2020.

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Related Topics
School Funding English Learners Birth Through Third Grade Learning Teachers and Leaders Higher Education Access and Affordability Higher Education Funding and Financial Aid