The Miseducation of the Budget

By: Kaitwan Jackson

Not long ago President Trump released the proposed budget for education in FY 18. As presumed the budget carried increased funding for school choice, a primary agenda of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Devos is probably the most anti-public school leader the Department of Education has ever seen; she has paid millions to lobby for a decrease in public school budgets. Hidden within this budget were decreased spending on social programs utilized toward helping post-secondary students pay off loans, while also eliminating programs within primary and secondary education. Most issues regarding education have been historically a bipartisan issue, but with the proposed budget even conservatives with allegiance to the 45th President are dumbfounded by the sought out decreases and increases.

Students at Bethune-Cookman turning their backs to Betsy Devos.  photo via the nation.com

Students at Bethune-Cookman turning their backs to Betsy Devos. photo via the nation.com

School choice has been a leading issue since DeVos took office about 4 months ago, and the budget proves she, educational advisors, and the President are not letting up on the initiative. In FY 18 President Trump plans to increase vouchers for students to attend privately owned institutions (religious, charter, private, etc.), allow federal money to stay with children rather than with schools, give underprivileged students the ability to attend schools outside their district, and lastly to incentivize the creation of more “high-quality” charter schools.

This plan carries the ideology of promoting student success potential, especially for those attending underfunded schools due to zoning restrictions, but this plan also threatens the public institution. By simply allowing students to flee their local schools, these schools will lose federal funding, and slowly trickle to a halt in educating. If we hope to maintain the underrepresented American public school we must reiterate the importance of education, and allow local communities to actively participate in the restructuring of their neighborhood institutions.

The current budget shows the immense detraction from public education that is beginning. We see a $1 billion-dollar increase allocated to FOCUS (Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success), and acts similar that incentivize schools to allow open enrollment, and approve student’s transferring to “higher-quality” schools, or schools face a detrimental loss of federal funding. 

The most startling change (and most relevant to college students) comes in a $487.8 million-dollar reduction in work study funding. In previous years, the work study budget has remained stagnant at around $988 million-dollars, but the Trump administration has only requested $500 million-dollars for FY 18, an approximately 50% decrease. Work-study has traditionally promoted the conservative value of working your way through school, and a building of responsible and nondependent citizens. This may cause further restrictions in terms of who will qualify for work-study, the amount distributed, and the availability of jobs on campuses that offer the federally and state funded program.

Amidst these significant changes the budget boasts that “These eliminations and reductions would decrease taxpayer costs by $9 billion.” This savings comes with increased spending going into institutions that are not federally controlled. Meaning these institutions will receive federal funding and subsides, but owe no allegiance to federally funded principles of civil and human rights; a problem currently ensuing within charter schools, and yet charter schools still received a proposed $167 million increase in funding. So, the question arises, is the tax decrease worth supporting schools that do not have to heed the voice of the public?

 It is extremely likely the budget will be rejected by Congress, and be forced into revisions. As aforementioned education is a bipartisan issue, and the proposed budget boasts changes that attract neither liberals nor conservatives. In the coming weeks, Senate will rule over the budget, and the public will see if the school choice initiative will make its way into society.