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The process for setting the next federal budget has begun. The Trump administration took the first step by releasing their budget proposal in March.
The plan outlines what changes the administration would make to the budget of each of the federal agencies. That includes the U.S. Department of Education.
Congress won’t vote on a final budget for fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017–September 30, 2018) until September 2017, and there may be changes along the way. But this first step gives Congress and the public an idea of what the administration’s priorities are.
Here, Lindsay Jones, chief policy and advocacy officer for NCLD, answers questions you may have about the budget proposal and what it might mean for kids with learning and thinking differences.
How would the proposed budget impact education funding?
What the administration released in March was known as “the skinny budget.” It doesn’t include an exact funding level for each program. It only describes some of the overall changes.
The full proposal is expected in May. But we already know that big changes may be coming. This proposed budget:
- Provides no additional funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Funding would remain at $13 billion, which is what the federal government provided last year. While that may sound like a lot of money, that amount has to serve the more than 6 million students with disabilities. The program is already stretched thin and needs additional funding.
- Eliminates a program (referred to as Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) that provides training and supports for teachers. The goal of this program is to help teachers serve all students and to help reduce class size.
- Cuts funding for before- and afterschool enrichment programs, such as counseling, art, music and recreation programs.
- Eliminates more than 20 other programs that are intended to improve public schools and support teachers. These include a literacy program and a program to give teachers-in-training real-world experience before they become full-time teachers.
- Creates a new private school voucher program, which allows parents to use public funds toward the cost of private school. (Read more about voucher programs and their impact on students who receive services.)
- Allows for $1 billion of the cuts from other programs to be added to Title I of ESSA, which would allow funding to follow students to the public school of their choice. Title I funding, however, is meant to support low-income public schools. This tactic would allow that funding to be redirected to public schools in more advantaged communities.
Why is the administration proposing the cuts?
Reducing the federal deficit is a goal of the administration. One way they plan to do this is to cut programs they don’t support, including some education programs they believe are not effective.
However, the proposed budget doesn’t include any information or evidence about the effectiveness of these programs. So advocates on both sides will need to make the case for why a particular program is or is not worth funding.
What could this mean for my child?
This budget could take dozens of programs and billions of dollars away from public school. Schools would be required to operate on fewer resources than they do now. Students would have fewer services available to them before, during and after school.
The budget impacts teachers, too. It gives them fewer opportunities to improve their instruction or learn new strategies to use in the classroom.
What comes next?
The next step will happen in Congress. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives generally each write their own budgets and determine how federal money should be spent.
The two chambers will then need to negotiate their two budgets and come to agreement. The end result will be one budget for the entire federal government, and it may take months to complete.
How can I make my voice heard on this important issue?
Parents can be critical partners in the budget process. You can help prevent cuts and preserve programs by speaking out for what’s important to you and your child.
If you want to get involved, you can urge your representatives to reject the proposed budget and create one that puts kids first. Use NCLD’s Take Action Center to send a message directly to your members of Congress.
Get answers to questions about changes at the Department of Education and their potential impact on kids with learning and thinking differences. And download a parent advocacy toolkit to help you become an ESSA advocate.
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About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.