DOE budget will cut critical school funding

The Washington Post is reporting the Trump Administration’s official budget for the federal Department of Education (DOE), to be released next week, will cut critical funding to Kansas public schools and redirect to school choice initiatives. You can view a breakdown of federal funding to Kansas schools here.

As KASB reported last month, the administration’s budget “blueprint” that contained few details would eliminate Title II funding ($2.4 billion) 21st Century Learning Center grants ($1 billion) and federal Impact Aid ($66 billion) from the DOE budget. The DOE documents obtained by the Post indicate the department’s full budget will be released May 23 and will reflect $10.6 billion in cuts, $400 million to expand charter schools and other “school choice” initiatives and $1 billion to encourage public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.

Kansas schools receive roughly $18 million in Title II funds, which they use for teacher professional development, to lower class sizes, promote STEM initiatives, and many other purposes.

The 21st Century Learning Center funds are used across the country to offer before- and after- school programs and summer school. In Kansas, school districts have used the $8 million in federal money to provide those programs in the wake of continuing state general fund reductions.

Impact Aid Support for Federal Property helps compensate school districts located on or near federal installations such as military bases for foregone property tax revenue. Kansas school districts use $30 million in Impact Aid to help address the often-unique needs of military-connected students.

Title I and School Choice

Title I, the largest federal K12 education program, provides financial support to public schools with high numbers or percentages of poor children to help those students master challenging content and academic achievement standards. While the Trump budge doesn’t cut Title I funding, it adds $1.4 billion to Title I for public and private school choice programs, with a goal of appropriating $20 billion annually for those initiatives.

Of the $1.4 billion, $1 billion is earmarked toward encouraging school districts to adopt an open enrollment system that would allow federal funding to follow students to the public school of their choice. In Kansas, state per-pupil funding follows a public-school student to another public district, provided the second district agrees to or can accept that student. The Trump proposal, while broad, appears to give additional incentives to local boards of education to adopt or expand upon open-enrollment policies to capture more federal dollars.

The remaining roughly $400 million in proposed Title I increases includes $168 million for charter schools. In Kansas, charter schools operate under the supervision of the locally-elected board of education. In 2015-16, there were 10 charter schools in the state.

Finally, the proposal adds $250 million for a new private school choice program. Private school choice initiatives, often referred to as “vouchers,” generally direct education tax dollars away from public schools to help subsidize the tuition of private and religious schools. In Kansas, state law allows corporations to receive a tax break in exchange for donations to an organization that grants scholarships to low-income children who wish to leave low-performing Kansas public schools to enroll in “participating qualified schools,” all of which are private or religious schools.

KASB and other educational advocacy organizations oppose choice plans that aid private schools which are not subject to the same legal requirements as public schools.

Watch KASB’s new website, social media channels and News Briefs for further analysis after the DOE budget is officially released.

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