Progressives: Trump Education Budget ‘Wrecking Ball,’ ‘Assault on American Dream,’ ‘Cruel to Kids’

trump budget
AP/Jon Elswick

Progressives who would have even more federal tax dollars spent on education are condemning President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 education budget, which cuts $9.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Education – a 13.6 percent reduction from last year.

The proposal eliminates a number of programs with the rationale that the programs have been proven to be either ineffective or are duplicated in other areas.

The plan calls for a $1 billion increase for Title 1 for new Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants that would be awarded to school districts that enhance school choice opportunities.

The budget also seeks a $167 million increase for the Charter Schools Grants program to allow states to launch new charter schools or expand current ones.

Former U.S. Education Secretary under President Barack Obama, John B. King Jr., said in an interview with establishment education media Education Week that Trump’s budget is “really an assault on the American Dream.”

King criticized the Trump administration’s elimination of the Professional Development and 21st Century programs, and the changes in the student loan forgiveness program.

The former secretary said the budget plan is an “attack on the very resources students in high-needs communities need to be successful.”

The heads of the nation’s largest teachers unions also weighed in on the proposed budget.

“President Trump’s budget proposal is manifestly cruel to kids,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. ”It is catastrophic to the public schools our most vulnerable and at-risk students attend, while being a windfall for those who want to profit off of kids or make education a commodity rather than a great equalizer and an anchor of democracy.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president the National Education Association said Trump’s plan is “a wrecking ball aimed at our nation’s public schools.”

“Their reckless and irresponsible budget would smash the aspirations of students, crush their dreams, and make it difficult for them to go to college and get ahead,” she added.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, however, said in a statement that the plan “reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money.”

“It ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes,” she said.

Trump’s budget plan would save over $1 billion by eliminating subsidized student loans, and an additional $859 million would be saved by ending student debt forgiveness for those who enter public service.

The administration’s budget proposes to “streamline student loan repayment” by consolidating several income-driven repayment (IDR) plans into one single plan. IDR plans provide student borrowers with the option of making lower monthly payments according to other factors such as income and family size.

The single IDR plan would cap a borrower’s monthly payment at 12.5 per- cent of discretionary income,” the budget states. “For undergraduate borrowers, any balance remaining after 15 years of repayment would be forgiven. For borrowers with any graduate debt, any balance remaining after 30 years of repayment would be forgiven.”

The Trump budget would guarantee that all student borrowers who use the IDR pay an equitable share of their income.

The Obama administration allowed even more student borrowers to reduce their monthly student loan payments based on their income.

CNN Money reported in December of last year, however, that Obama’s policy could result in twice the costs for the federal government, i.e., taxpayers, as expected:

The program loses money because some participants, over the life of their loans, will pay less than they would under a standard repayment plan.

It’s difficult to predict how much the program will cost in the future. But the Government Accountability Office estimates that loans issued between 2009 and 2016, originally projected to cost $25 billion, will cost $53 billion.

“It’s an expensive program that’s bigger than anyone ever told us it would be,” said Jason Delisle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The GAO found that the government will lose $21 for every $100 in student loans issued to someone who takes advantage of an income-driven repayment plan.

According to Time, Natalia Abrams, executive director of advocacy organization Student Debt Crisis, said that over 550,000 borrowers are currently enrolled in the debt forgiveness program.

“We need to make it easier for people to go to and pay for college, this budget does the exact opposite,” Abrams said, although the Education Department said those students already in the loan forgiveness program would not be affected by the proposed changes.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was initiated in 2007 with the hope that university graduates would respond to the incentive by accepting government jobs and teaching positions in remote rural areas. The program allows the student borrower’s debt to be forgiven after 120 payments, or 10 years.

The Trump education budget also would save $1.2 billion by eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), a program that allowed expansion of before- and after-school and summer school programs.

“The Budget proposes eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program given performance data demonstrates that the program is not achieving its goals, and the program has low participant attendance rates,” the administration states. “Nearly 60 percent of students attended a 21st CCLC center for 30 days or fewer during the 2014-2015 school year.”

The proposed education budget would end as well the International Education program, which is designed to improve American education in foreign languages and international studies.

“Other Federal Agencies whose primary mission is national security implement similar programs and are better equipped to support the objective of these programs,” the budget document states.

“The Trump administration’s full budget for education for FY 2018 would make some long-overdue cuts at the Department of Education, eyeing reductions in spending totaling $9.2 billion – a 13.6 percent cut in the agency’s current $68 billion annual budget,” said Lindsey Burke, director of Heritage’s Center for Education Policy.

“That type of reduction signals a serious commitment to reducing federal intervention in education – a necessary condition to make space for a restoration of state and local control,” she added.

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