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School Choice a Big Winner in President Trump's Budget

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President Donald Trump is calling for $1.4 billion in new federal investments in school choice, including vouchers for private schools, charter schools, and Title I funding that would follow students to the public schools of their choice.

Even as he proposes to carve more than $9 billion from the federal education budget for fiscal 2018, the president made clear in his new federal budget blueprint that school choice is his agenda for K-12. During the campaign, he promised a $20 billion school choice initiative—and the new budget document pledges to eventually ramp up federal investments to that level.

Trump is asking Congress to approve a new $250 million federal voucher program for families to use toward paying tuition at private schools, including religious schools. He's also calling for boosting the federal charter school grant program—currently funded at $333 million—by an additional $168 million. Those grants are directed at states and charter organizations for opening new charters and expanding existing ones, especially those operated by networks with a proven track record.

Trump budget blurb.JPG

Proponents of school choice were delighted with Trump's proposals.

"Today, President Trump demonstrated that he is a strong supporter of charter public schools," said Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, in a statement. "The charter school movement is grateful for the president's support, and we applaud his commitment to providing critically needed funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP). This funding will allow more high-quality charter schools to open, expand, and replicate—and will help finance facilities for charter schools - so that more students have access to the great education they deserve." 

But there are some choice proponents concerned about Trump's broader cuts to K-12.

"...[C]harter schools are part of—not a substitute for—a strong public education system," said Greg Richmond, the president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. "Charter schools cannot succeed without strong teachers and a seamless, affordable path to college for their graduates. Unfortunately, this proposed budget harms programs that are important for students, teachers, and public education. We look forward to working with Congress to finds ways to support both charter schools and all of public education."

Other leaders in the K-12 sphere said the president's proposed deep cuts to programs such as teacher professional development and afterschool in favor of school choice programs will harm students.

"The priorities Donald Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and families," said Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association. "If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students and deprive millions of opportunities." 

For a full explanation of the president's proposed budget for K-12, see Alyson Klein's take over at Politics K-12.

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