by Karen R. Effrem, MD
In last week’s column, I mentioned four things that President Donald Trump could do to keep his education promises. One had to do with the budget:
3.) Cut the Federal Education Budget
Considering that there are so many invasive, ineffective, expensive, over-reaching, privacy-robbing federal education programs that include related social emotional standards tied to Common Core, President Trump should direct his Budget Director, former House Freedom Caucus member from South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney, to decrease the federal education budget and especially root out some of these more invasive programs.
It appears that the president and budget director received this advice from multiple sources, because that is exactly what they have done. They propose to cut the federal education budget by a very healthy and respectable $9 billion, which amounts to thirteen percent. That is probably more than this wasteful, invasive, unconstitutional department has ever been cut in its entire history.
Although it is hard to know all of the details from the less-than-detailed blueprint released yesterday, we can see that at least approximately $8.4 billion are saved. We can also glean a few things about the nature of the proposed cuts.
Most important from the point of view of those who care deeply about parental autonomy in education and the psychological privacy and freedom of conscience of children is the $1.2 billion being cut by the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, because “the program lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”
Broadcaster Rush Limbaugh thought very little of this program and dubbed it “midnight basketball” back in the 1990’s under President Clinton after it was first introduced. And more recently, Barbara Hollingsworth of CNSNews.com dubbed these programs “Parent Replacement Centers” in an August 2015 article after funding for them was restored in an amendment to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Despite the abundant evidence of these programs ineffectiveness and harmfulness, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) (despite his vote against the amendment) and former Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan both supported this kind of womb-to-tomb government takeover of the family via government schools.
Fortunately, however, the Trump administration does not, and the president should be heartily commended for being willing to stand against the establishment and eliminate it. Not only would this education budget be redirected towards more constitutional funding priorities, but getting rid of this program and all its related subprograms would help prevent psychological profiling. It would also help Mr. Trump support another of his campaign education priorities, that of protecting student privacy.
Other programs on the chopping block include:
President Trump is also increasing the budget toward his and Secretary Betsy DeVos’ priority of school choice:
Increases investments in public and private school choice by $1.4 billion compared to the 2017 annualized CR level, ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion, and an estimated $100 billion including matching State and local funds. This additional investment in 2018 includes a $168 million increase for charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice program, and a $1 billion increase for Title I, dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of studentbased budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.
While it is somewhat comforting that the Title I portability program is a public school choice program at this juncture, there is grave concern about the intended accountability regulations for private schools in the new private school choice program that could impose Common Core-aligned tests on private schools, and this will need to be closely watched. This major danger to private school autonomy has been covered by many writers in the education freedom movement, including Phyllis Schlafly, the late, iconic president of Eagle Forum; Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute; and Education Liberty Watch’s Choice Freedom Grading scale.
The release of this budget blueprint is just the first step in a long, complex discussion and debate process with Congress. Parents and activists should be cautiously optimistic, but also vigilant as the discussion unfolds.
Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via Flickr, CC BY 2.0