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Trump’s Proposed K-12 Budget: Six Funding Themes

The president's proposed budget has been released and provides for $63.2 billion in discretionary funding for education. Here's a look at some of the key proposals.

The Trump administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2019. (As a reminder, the president’s proposed budget is merely a starting point. The president releases a proposed budget, but Congress holds the power on actual appropriations.)

According to the Department of Education, there are six main themes in the proposed K-12 plans. They include:

  • Providing better choices for more families to attend a high-quality school.
  • Supporting high-quality special education services to children with disabilities.
  • Creating new and alternative pathways to successful careers for students.
  • Promoting innovation and reform around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
  • Implementing school-based opioid abuse prevention strategies.
  • Making the department more efficient while limiting the federal role in education.
These six themes are then broken down and assigned an appropriation that the administration would like to see Congress do. The president’s budget provides $63.2 billion in discretionary funding, a $3.6 billion or 5 percent decrease below the 2017 enacted level. The proposed budget, if passed as is, would eliminate, streamline or reduce 39 discretionary programs that duplicate other programs, are ineffective, or are more appropriately supported with state, local or private funds.

One example of a discretionary program that would be eliminated under this proposal is the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). The administration states that eliminating this program would be “consistent with the Administration’s belief in reducing the Federal role in education, eliminating duplicative programs, and reallocating scarce Federal resources to higher priority programs. Many of the activities supported under GEAR UP can be supported through the Administration’s proposal to transition the Federal TRIO Programs into a consolidated State formula grant program that would support activities -- including those authorized under GEAR UP -- to help low-income and other disadvantaged students progress through the academic pipeline from middle school through post-secondary.”

Title IV

The proposal seeks to eliminate the $400 million Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants, or Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is where much of technology funding comes from. The SSAE grants were created to replace the Enhancing Education through Technology program, which was last funded in 2011. Title IV has three main uses allowed under ESSA:

  1. Providing students with a well-rounded education (e.g., college and career counseling, STEM, arts, civics, International Baccalaureate/Advanced Placement).
  2. Supporting safe and healthy students (e.g., comprehensive school mental health, drug and violence prevention, health and physical education).
  3. Supporting the effective use of technology.
Here is the Trump administration’s justification for eliminating the program: “The Administration does not believe limited federal resources should be allocated to a program where many of its grants will likely be too small to have a meaningful impact. Furthermore, the school districts that do receive at least $30,000 must follow funding restrictions that prescribe a minimum amount that must be spent on the program’s different categories of activities, further diluting the program’s impact and removing discretion that is best left to local decision-makers. Also, the activities authorized under this program generally can be supported with funds from other federal, state, local, and private sources, including similarly flexible funds provided under the $15 billion Title I Grants to LEAs program.”

The proposed budget also supports $129.8 billion in new postsecondary grants, loans, and work-study assistance to help an estimated 11.5 million students and their families pay for college.

Promoting Innovation and Reform in STEM

The Department of Education also states that, “consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on STEM education, the FY 2019 Budget includes $200 million in new grants to improve STEM education.” This means $180 million for competitive Education Innovation and Research grants that would support evidence-based strategies and interventions to improve student achievement in STEM fields, including computer science, and $20 million for awards to consortia of secondary and postsecondary providers that would work with employers and local workforce agencies to create innovative career and technical education programs in STEM fields, including computer science, that are aligned with regional workforce and labor market needs.

Overall Budget Need-to-Know

The Trump administration is still pushing hard on school choice options, proposing $1.5 billion in support of the president’s long-term goal of giving every student the opportunity to attend a school of his or her choice. If passed as is, the budget would expand both private and public school choices, particularly for students from low-income families or attending schools identified for improvement under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, through a new $1 billion Opportunity Grants program.

The administration is also using the budget to expand career-tech education (CTE) by requesting $1.1 billion for a reauthorized Perkins CTE State grants program that would increase support for high school CTE programs, promote and expand apprenticeships, prioritize CTE STEM programs (especially in high schools), and target services to disadvantaged students.

The Trump administration claims the budget would save more than $203 billion overall, while the Congressional Budget Office says it’s more likely $100 billion. Either way, only Congress has the power to decide what stays and what goes in this budget proposal.