Legislature: Federal (House & Senate)
Where is it now? Submitted
Stake Holders: Taxpayers, students, teachers, school administrators, national teacher and school associations., religious organizations, separation of church and state organizations.
Why Do We Care:
It reduces public education funding. The budget seeks to reduce the Education Department’s roughly $68B budget by $9B (13%) and eliminates more than 20 current programs including Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants) which helps states and school districts hire and provide professional development for teachers. The budget also gets rid of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which finances after-school and extended-learning programs. It also keeps funding for Pell Grants at current levels eliminating nearly $4B in surplus funding that could have helped college students cover the cost of summer courses. More.
It increases funding for school choice through vouchers for private and charter schools and “portability”. The budget proposes a $1.4B federal investment in school choice including about $250M which would go to private schools, $168M which would go to new charter (public) schools and the rest (approximately $1B) to make the federal Title I program regarding low-income students in higher poverty schools more “portable.”
While “school choice” is an attractive term there are certain cautions to be kept in mind:
- Private Schools are non-public schools which can be religious or secular in nature and are designed to support parental beliefs in how children should be educated. The clear majority of private schools are religious schools, some of which in addition to discriminating against other religions or the non-religious also teach faith-based pseudo-scientific (creationism) and revisionist (the founding fathers were Christians.) Funding private religious schools blurs the line between separation of church and state [see here].
- Charter Schools are non-neighborhood, independent public schools established by teachers, parents, community members, non-profit and for profit groups. The value of charter schools is often debated and some maintain that whatever the original emphasis for charter schools the movement is increasingly becoming an industry whereby decisions are made on the basis of financial services and corporate interests [see here].
- Title I “Portability” is basically unworkable. Currently, Title I dollars are targeted toward low-income students in higher poverty schools. Concentrating them this way provides the greatest assistance for these schools. Trump’s plan is to “voucherize” the money and have it follow the students themselves should they choose to attend a school outside their attendance area. In terms of school choice, it is “school choice light” with the added consequence of making Title I dollars less effective than they are today [see here]. Also, the budget encourages states and school districts to use the funds as part of a “student-based budgeting and open enrollment” plan that enables Federal, State, and Local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice. Kids with in poverty, students in special education-who cost more to educate-would carry with them more money than other students. More.
How Does It Meet Our Stated Objective? Indivisible promotes inclusiveness, tolerance and fairness. Neighborhood public schools based on attendance areas with democratically elected school board members also tend to support these values. The Trump education budget tends to divide students, families and neighborhoods into special interest groups especially in the case of faith-based special interest groups which tend to exclude people of other faiths and introduce faith-based “alternative” facts into the American collective consciousness. Use of tax-payer money to fund educational special interest groups especially when they are not accountable to the taxpayer appears to be a form of “taxation without representation.”
Local Impact: Massachusetts teachers, students and schools will suffer. Last year under Title II, Boston schools alone received $5.7M enabling them to serve 56,000 students. Also, eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program means Massachusetts schools will lose $12M and the students who rely on these programs will face greater hardships. More.
Also, further funding for charter schools will decrease parent involvement and transparency. Currently, sixty percent of the charter schools in Massachusetts lack even a single parent on their boards of trustees. Public records requests made to 10 publicly funded Boston charter schools have been thwarted by demands for fees totaling $91,440 from seven of the schools. More .
Massachusetts residents are predominantly Roman Catholic (48%) and there are 205 Roman Catholic private schools in the state which serve 62,336 students. While the voucher increase might be a windfall for them, studies have shown that reliance on vouchers can lead to a decrease in church donations and spending on non-educational church expenditures. More.
Possible Action: Write or call Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman Keating. Contact House Budget Chair, Diane Black, R-TN. Contact Bernie Sanders, Angus King, Tim Kane and Sheldon Whitehouse on the Senate bud get Committee. Contact the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Contact the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance and Massachusetts Teachers Association. Contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Attach written summary and any other supporting documents – see links included in text.
Resources: K-12 NN News Network, Education Week, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Massachusetts Last: Impacts of the Trump Budget on the Commonwealth, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Public School Review, U.S. News and World Report.