President’s 2019 budget plan would cut federal education funding by more than 5%

On Monday (Feb. 12), President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal for federal fiscal year 2019 that starts on Oct. 1, 2018.  This is the second budget proposal of his presidency, and, in many ways, it resembles the budget he proposed last year.

The latest plan would cut the U.S. Department of Education’s budget for fiscal 2019 by about $3.6 billion or roughly 5.3 percent compared to current levels.  While significant, this represents a smaller cut than what the president sought for fiscal 2018, when he proposed cutting $9.2 billion—or 13.5 percent—from the Education Department.

Among the proposed education spending cuts are two major cuts the President also proposed last year:   the eliminating of Title II teacher grants as well as funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.  In combination, scrapping these two programs would cut federal spending by about $3.1 billion from current levels.  Overall, the plan would cut, eliminate, or “streamline” 39 discretionary programs that fund education.

Among the other programs the plan proposes to scrap are the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($400 million), created through a bipartisan effort  under Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in late 2015.  Districts can use these funds to provide or improve arts, music, and technology instruction, as well as improve school climate and expand student health or mental health services to help boost student success.

Also scrapped are the Promise Neighborhoods program ($73 million), which helps districts pair academic services with health and other services, and the nearly $340 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (or GEAR UP), a program that helps prepare low-income and first-generation students for college.

Federal funding for the major federal assistance programs for K-12 education would be essentially unchanged under the 2019 budget proposal.

  • Federal funding for special education programs provided through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state formula grants would remain the same ($12.8 billion)

Note: When the IDEA was first enacted over 40 years ago, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil cost for every special education student served. However, current federal appropriations provide only roughly 15 percent of the cost to educate students with disabilities.  That percentage level would likely fall even lower if Congress adopts the President’s proposal.

  • Funding for Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education programs would also remain unchanged ($1.1 billion).
  • Title I funding for disadvantaged students, the biggest single federal K-12 assistance program, would remain roughly the same (about $15.4 billion).

On the other hand, the Trump Administration’s budget plan calls for increases in some areas.  For example, it seeks to funnel $1 billion into grants for states for private and public school choice programs called Opportunity Grants. This new funding could go to help districts that choose to participate in the Every Student Succeeds Act’s weighted-funding pilot, under which federal, state, and local funding would follow students to the public school of their choice.

The budget plan would also provide $500 million in federal charter school funding, an increase of roughly 50 percent from current spending levels, which is also the same funding level proposed in the 2018 budget blueprint.

The President’s plan would also boost federal spending by $200 million on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, providing $180 million in new funding for the Education Innovation and Research program, as well as $20 million in new STEM grants.

It is not clear just what Congress will do with the President’s 2019 budget proposal, particularly given that it hasn’t yet finalized appropriations for fiscal 2018 yet.

Just last week, Congress lawmakers  extended fiscal 2017 spending levels in order to stave off a government shutdown.  As part of that deal, Congress also agreed to significantly increase spending caps on domestic discretionary programs moving forward, including those that fund K-12 education.   On the other hand, the just-released Trump Administration budget proposal calls for cutting non-defense discretionary spending by more than 40 percent.