The Administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress this week that provides greater detail about the policy goals referenced in the initial FY2018 budget blueprint released in March. While the Administration would increase funding in Title I to promote school choice, the proposal would also eliminate several education programs and would target reductions in others. Overall, the $4.1 trillion budget proposal would redirect resources, including those for healthcare and after-school programs, to school choice through a $1 billion "Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success" (FOCUS) grant program.
"NSBA is committed to keeping public schools as a top priority in the upcoming budget deliberations," stated Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director and CEO. "The Association will vigorously oppose the cuts proposed by the Administration." NSBA's statement regarding the budget request is available here and an analysis of the proposed budget is posted here.
Congressional Hearing with Secretary DeVos: One day after the budget request was published, the school choice proposition for FOCUS grants raised several questions during a hearing conducted by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
During the hearing, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated that the President's budget "fulfills his promise to devolve power from the federal government to parents and students."
Along with Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), the full Appropriations Committee Chairman, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), questioned Secretary DeVos about the Department's request to provide level funding for special education grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), adding that "we need to do better." If Congress were to fund IDEA at the Administration's request, the federal share of funding for IDEA would be reduced by an average of $35 per student nationwide.
Both Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and full Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) referred to the FOCUS grants proposal as an effort to "siphon" resources from public schools. "Madam Secretary, I believe that your budget would do great harm," Ranking Member Lowey stated, citing a proposed cut of 13.6 percent to education, "taking us back to [Fiscal Year] 2002."
Throughout the hearing, Subcommittee members asked questions about programmatic cuts that would affect key priorities for student achievement, such as the proposed cuts for the Perkins Career and Technical Education grants program, the Impact Aid federal properties program for school districts with non-taxable federal properties within their jurisdictions, and for Effective Teachers and Leaders grants (Title II). NSBA submitted questions for the hearing regarding IDEA and these program areas.
NSBA urges Congress' bipartisan efforts to avert further across-the-board budget cuts to education in Fiscal Year 2018 and future fiscal years that impact the success of our students, school districts and communities. For the FY 2018 budget, there are two major issues: 1) preventing another round of across-the-board budget cuts (sequestration) governed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and 2) prioritizing federal investments in Title I, special education (IDEA), and related education programs.