President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget released by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) included five major themes:
1) expanding school choice,
2) maintaining support for the Nation’s most vulnerable students,
3) simplifying funding for postsecondary education,
4) continuing to build evidence around educational innovation (i.e.: more school choice),
5) eliminating or reducing USED programs consistent with the limited federal role in education.
On the surface this sounds great, but USPIE has a few concerns regarding how the budget lines up with the President’s campaign promises to “Largely eliminate the Department of Education”, and a recent speech of Secretary DeVos admitting the failure of federal education reforms.
There are two budget items we are pleased to applaud.
First, the elimination of funding for state longitudinal data systems. Data collection drives federal control of education and is the enforcer of national standards (Common Core). USPIE is very encouraged by the President’s attempt to cut the purse strings on the 15-year old federal data collection systems, which in effect is creating a national database. This is especially favorable considering the recent Congressional bills that will combine all federal data silos creating one federal data clearinghouse. This is certainly a step in the right direction and shows there are some in authority that understand the concerns parents have about the mountain of data being collected on their children without their consent.
Second, reductions in some federal education programs. Anytime federal education authorities eliminate or reduce programs it is a major step in the right direction. We are encouraged to see programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers on the chopping block, however, some failed programs such as Head Start not only remain intact but see an unwarranted increase in the President’s budget. As a matter of fact, Head Start is a program USPIE believes should be eliminated in favor of state level alternatives to pre-school.
The President’s Education budget is a small step in the right direction, but it does not remove the federal footprint in education. In fact, it increases federal domination when it comes to the federal school choice proposals, which make up 2 of the 5 themes in the budget with new federal spending at the tune of $1.4 billion. USPIE’s school choice position statement articulates adamant opposition to federal school choice proposals. Outside of increasing federal tax credits to parents for educational choices and similar measures on the state level, all other parental choice options directed by government have the potential to become regulated and tied to the federal government’s workforce development database. Increasing federal control through school choice is just wrong.
The bottom line is, it will take Congress to eliminate USED and all federal education mandates, which is the mission of USPIE, and while we see some good in the President’s budget, it doesn’t come close to the President’s promise to “Largely eliminate Department of Education.”
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