The proposed federal education budget for the next fiscal year shows where the administration wants tax dollars for education to go in the future — toward private schools.
THE proposed federal-education budget for the next fiscal year flouts the values of our nation and also appears to threaten Washington state’s education budget.
Just the numbers tell a surprising story: Program cuts totaling $9 billion from the Education Department’s $68 billion budget and $1.4 billion for school choice, including new money for states that embrace vouchers. Families could use the vouchers to offset tuition at private schools.
The budget proposal would eliminate more than 20 education programs that benefit children from low-income families and those with disabilities. The proposed cuts include an after-school program that serves mostly low-income students, would take money away from career and technical education, cut Special Olympics education programs and a number of other programs. Many of these make up a small part of Washington’s education budget.
But the real danger in the Trump administration’s education budget is that it shows where President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would like tax dollars increasingly to go in the future — toward private schools, including religious institutions. The Washington state Constitution specifically prohibits state dollars going to religious schools, so Washington could not benefit from this program even if the citizens thought it was a good idea, which it is not
When testifying before Congress last week, DeVos was asked if she would stop federal money from being spent at a private school that discriminates against LGBT students. She said states would determine the rules about how school vouchers would be used.
“This isn’t about parents making choices, this is about the use of federal dollars,” Rep. Katherine M. Clark, D-Massachusetts, said as a preamble to asking about vouchers.
Clark is correct. Federal dollars should not and cannot be used to discriminate.
Just like the rest of the first Trump administration budget, the education-budget proposal is likely dead before the debate is finished. Congress will set the national budget and therefore the education priorities. The new education secretary is asking lawmakers to give her the flexibility to use federal dollars in an innovative way, just like Congress gave the previous education secretaries latitude to experiment with some money.
The problem is where she wants to do that experimenting.