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Last month, the Trump administration released its full budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. (The fiscal year runs from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018.)
This budget funds the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Education. So it has a big impact on kids with learning and thinking differences.
Congress will be working on the budget from now through September 2017, so we’ve turned to NCLD to help keep you updated.
What do parents of kids with learning and thinking differences need to know about the budget proposal?
The most important thing to know is that this proposed budget cuts over $9 billion from federal education spending. That’s huge.
If Congress approves this proposal, many U.S. Department of Education programs would be scaled back. For instance, the administration is proposing to decrease funding for two key areas that impact students with learning and thinking differences:
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The budget proposes a cut of $112 million from funding used to pay for special education services. Kids with IEPs rely on these services.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights: This office protects the civil rights of kids under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The budget proposes a cut of $1.7 million from the office’s funding.
The budget also proposes eliminating more than 20 other federal education programs. Some of these provide funding to help states with a variety of student needs. If the budget is passed, states will get less money for things like:
Science, the arts, music and physical education instruction
Evidence-based literacy instruction
Professional development for teachers
Reducing class size
Programs that promote school safety
In addition to education funding, the president is also seeking to cut more than $600 billion from Medicaid over the next decade. That’s on top of $800 billion in proposed cuts in the current health care reform bill in Congress.
While not an education program, Medicaid plays an important role for schools. It helps pay for basic health screenings for kids from low-income families. It also helps pay for nurses and therapists in schools, who often serve kids with learning and thinking differences.
Also, Medicaid can cover the cost of some services for students with learning and thinking differences. This includes services like occupational therapy, counseling and transportation.
Does the proposed budget increase education funding at all?
Yes, but only in a few areas. The purpose of the budget increases is to encourage what’s known as school choice. This refers to giving public school students the ability to attend different public or private schools using public dollars.
For example, the Trump administration plans to add $1 billion in funding for low-income students to leave their neighborhood public school for other public schools. This money follows the student. So when a student leaves, the old school loses the money and the new one gets it. The idea is to let disadvantaged kids leave failing schools. However, if passed, this program would likely result in poor schools losing funding as low-income students head to wealthier schools.
Another $250 million is proposed to support school vouchers. This allows families to use public money to attend private schools.
What is NCLD’s position on the budget proposal?
Based on the administration’s budget preview released a few months ago, NCLD expected to see cuts to important programs. Now, we’re seeing just how deep those cuts are.
In our view, this budget doesn’t put public schools or the students they serve first. If passed, the cuts could have a negative impact on kids with learning and thinking differences.
NCLD also opposes funding for the school voucher program because it allows public money to pay for a student’s private school tuition. Most private school voucher programs require students to give up their special education rights. They also don’t cover the full cost of tuition, so parents have to pay out of pocket.
What happens next?
It’s important to remember that the administration’s budget is still in an early step in the process.
Now the ball is in Congress’ court, so to speak. Over the next few months, Congress gets to weigh in on specific funding levels for each program. And there’s an opportunity for parents and advocates to speak out about the $9 billion in education funding cuts. Congress will likely vote on the budget in the fall.
If you care about these issues and want to make a difference for children, teachers and schools across the country, now is the time to get involved. To stay up to date on all that’s happening in Washington and for more information on the budget, visit NCLD’s policy blog.
Get answers to questions about changes at the U.S. Department of Education and the potential impact on kids with learning and thinking differences. And download a parent advocacy toolkit to help you make your voice heard.