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Trump's 2019 Budget Proposal and Education: What to Watch

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President Donald Trump is expected to release his latest federal spending wish list on Monday. And the U.S. Department of Education may not fare well.

The proposal could include a billion or two more in cuts than last year's budget pitch, which sought to slash more than $9 billion from the department's nearly $70 billion budget.

This is going to be a confusing year because Congress still hasn't finalized last year's spending plan, for fiscal year 2018, which started on Oct. 1 and generally impacts the 2018-19 school year. Congress recently passed legislation extending funding for all programs at fiscal year 2017 levels.

Trump's newest proposal, though, will lay out his administration's asks for fiscal year 2019, or the 2019-20 school year for most programs.

The president's budget is almost always dead-on-arrival in Congress, which is already poised to reject many of the cuts Trump proposed last year, including getting rid of the $1.1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

But budgets are a clear signal of the administration's priorities. So what should you look for in this one? Here's a quick rundown:

School Choice

In last year's budget, Trump pitched a new private school voucher program. And he asked Congress to allow some federal funding to follow students to the public school of their choice. Lawmakers nixed both proposals.

But that doesn't mean there won't be a new choice ask. There could be something broad-based that would impact many kids, but it would be unlikely to pass. It's also possible that the administration could opt for something that's more likely to get through Congress, such as a proposal focused on one or more of the three groups of kids the federal government already has responsibility for. That means it would be no surprise to see a pitch for providing Education Savings Accounts to children on military bases, Native American students, and/or families in the District of Columbia. Possibilities on specific proposals here.

STEM

It's no secret that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is an area of focus for Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter and a White House adviser. She already helped spearhead an effort to steer some $200 million in competitive education funding to STEM. So it makes sense that there could be something in the budget with a STEM twist. One logical place to look for it: the Education Innovation and Research program, a flexible program that helps scale up promising practices in districts. It's one of the best places in the Education Department for an administration to push its priorities.

Research Programs

Details of the budget have been tightly held, but one thing has come out in advance. The Trump administration is expected to pitch combining three research programs: the State Longitudinal Data System program, the Regional Educational Laboratory Program, and the Comprehensive Centers, advocates with knowledge of the proposal said. The money for all three programs—nearly $140 million all told—would instead be doled out to states through formula grants. The research community is already unhappy about the prospect. Much more in this story.

Cuts

Last year, Trump proposed slashing Title II, the main federal program for teacher quality, which is funded at $2.05 billion, as well as the after-school program, plus deep cuts elsewhere. This year, advocates are bracing for even more proposed program eliminations. One logical candidate that wasn't up for elimination last year: the Promise Neighborhood Program, a $73 million Obama-era initiative that helps school districts pair education with wraparound services. 


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