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Meet the Only K-12 Education Program to Get Cut in the Spending Bill Trump Signed

The new federal spending levels recently approved by President Donald Trump include a $2.6 billion boost for the U.S. Department of Education. But what's the story behind that number?

Big programs intended for disadvantaged students, special education, and career and technical education are getting significant boosts. Title IV, a big block grant that can be spent on various initiatives, got a nearly three-fold increase. However, it's not just that the major line items got increases. Several smaller programs that deal with magnet schools, arts in education, and the Special Olympics got more money too.

In fact, we could only find one K-12 program in the Education Department's new budget that is getting less money in fiscal 2018 than it did in fiscal 2017.

That distinction (so to speak) goes to the School Leader Recruitment and Support program. Housed at the department's Office of Innovation and Improvement, School Leader Recruitment and Support's objectives are pretty much what its name suggests. It aims to help with the recruitment, training, and retention of principals and assistant principals in high-needs school districts.

These grants have paid for stipends for principals serving as mentors, financial incentives for aspiring principals, and professional development and leadership training.

A "high needs" district, for the purpose of this program, is defined as a district that:

  1. either serves at least 10,000 children from low-income families or serves a community in which at least 20 percent of children are from low-income families; and
  2. has a high percentage of teachers teaching either outside of their certification or with emergency, provisional, or temporary certification.

This program received $14.5 million in fiscal 2017, but its entire budget got cut for fiscal 2018. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the good news overall for many federal education advocates, associations that represents principals in Washington—one for elementary school principals and the other for secondary principals—didn't mention the program's elimination in their upbeat statements about the spending deal. 

Zachary Scott, the senior manager of advocacy at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said that his group simply had bigger priorities with the fiscal 2018 spending, such as Title II, which provides $2.1 billion for educator development. And overall, he said, there were "so many other good things" in the spending bill that his group was more focused on its victories. 

"We do still think it's a very helpful program," Scott said.

He also noted that both the House and Senate spending bills introduced last year eliminated the School Leader Recruitment and Support program. The Trump administration's proposed fiscal 2018 budget, which was largely ignored by Congress, also ended funding for it.

For more information about spending on key programs at the Education Department, see the chart below:

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