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House OKs Bill to Slash Education Budget as School Choice Push Loses Out

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve an education funding bill that would cut about $2.3 billion from the U.S. Department of Education, a roughly 3.5 percent reduction from the agency's current budget of $68.4 billion.

The House bill funding the department for fiscal year 2018 would eliminate $2 billion in Title II funding for teacher training and class size reduction, and cut $100 million from current spending on after-school aid. (More on that last issue here.) The legislation, which was approved by a 211-198 vote, keeps Title I funding for disadvantaged students flat at about $15.4 billion, and also includes a $200 million increase for special education. It also rejects prominent elements of President Donald Trump's budget proposal, most specifically on school choice—more on that below. 

The House spending bill, which provides $66.1 billion to the Education Department as part of a broader $1.2 trillion spending package for various government agencies, must be reconciled with the Senate legislation. Unlike House lawmakers, Senators in charge of the appropriations process have so far, in the subcommittee and committee that oversee K-12 spending respectively, voted to increase spending slightly at the Education Department. The Senate bill would boost department spending by a relatively small amount, $29 million, up to $68.4 billion. The Trump administration, by contrast, sought a cut of $9.2 billion to the department in its budget proposal from earlier this year. 

Also unlike the House, the Senate voted to maintain current funding for two programs the House bill seeks to cut. Senators have voted to maintain that $2 billion for teacher training, the single-biggest funding cut for K-12 sought by House lawmakers. And the Senate so far has backed $1.2 billion in current spending on after-school programs.

However, both the bill approved by the House on Thursday and the Senate bill rejected the Trump administration's proposals to boost public and private school choice. The Trump administration singled out these omissions for criticism, saying that its $250 million private school choice plan "supports the expansion of innovative and proven approaches to improve America's education system, address persistent challenges in education, and build institutional knowledge of what is working." 

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