President’s Skinny Budget Would Slash Education Funding

Early this morning, the White House released the President’s proposed “Skinny Budget” for FY18, a streamlined blueprint for next year’s budget that does not contain much detail about specific changes. What is clear from this Skinny Budget is that the President is attempting to make good on his previously announced plans to shift $54 billion in domestic discretionary funding to defense spending and that the Department of Education would be one of the federal agencies that would suffer significant funding losses as a result. While it is ultimately up to Congress to dispose of the President’s proposals through the appropriations process, Republican control of both chambers makes at least some significant cuts likely in the end.

For education, the Skinny Budget proposes to cut $9 billion in funding, which it represents as a 13 percent decrease, below the current FY 17 levels.  If the President’s Education Department overall funding level of $59 billion becomes law, this will take federal education support back to approximately FY08 levels. In this budget, the President attains the majority of his cuts through eliminating: the $2.25 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program, a block grant that school districts use to hire and train teachers and administrators; the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides funding for after school and summer programs; the $732 million Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity program, a higher education need-based aid program; and the $3.9 billion Pell Grant surplus. The Skinny Budget also indicates that more than 20 other programs would be eliminated, including the Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs. The budget would protect IDEA, funding at the same level as last year, and increase Title I funding but with a school choice twist (more below).

While the Skinny Budget is silent on the new Title IV, Part A flexible block grant program, which would provide districts with funding for health and safety programs, well-rounded academic programs and educational technology, it can be presumed that the Administration will not seek any funding for it. It is also silent on funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a program that many had speculated would see reductions.

The central aim of the President’s education funding proposals is to begin to shift a significant share of federal dollars towards supporting his goal of a major school choice. The Skinny Budget would accomplish this in three ways: 1) adding $168 million to the existing Charter Schools Grant program; 2) establishing a new private school choice program (no details provided) and funding it at $250 million; and 3) increasing Title I by $1 billion but allowing those students to move with students to public schools of their choice. This last move, known as Title I portability, was the subject of intense debate during the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but Congress did not incorporate the concept into the final Every Student Succeeds Act.

On the broadband front, the Skinny Budget notably chooses not to eliminate the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which played a significant role in rolling out broadband stimulus grants through its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The budget says of NTIA: “The Budget supports the commercial sector’s development of next genera­tion wireless services by funding NTIA’s mission of evaluating and ensuring the efficient use of spectrum by Government users.”