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House Bill Stands Against Trump's School Choice Expansion

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee released a proposed spending bill with big implications for America’s K12 schools.

While the bill calls for more than $2 billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of Education’s overall budget, as the Washington Post reports, it’s nowhere near the $9 billion in cuts proposed by the Trump administration in its May budget proposal.

There’s still a long road ahead for lawmakers to finalize next year’s education budget, but the House bill might reduce some anxiety about the sweeping cuts proposed by Trump.

As Kelly McManus, director of government affairs at the Education Trust told the Washington Post, “One big takeaway is that people know that what the president pushed for is not at all feasible.”

Still, the House bill proposes big changes to next year’s education budget, with important implications for school districts.

Here are the major takeaways from the House proposal and how they compare to the president’s proposal.

1. Not-as-big overall cuts

While President Trump proposed nearly 14 percent, or more than $9 billion in cuts to the ED budget, the $2.4 billion proposed by the House accounts for a 3.5 percent overall cut. While the Trump administration wanted to slash ED’s total budget to $59 billion, the House proposal would reduce it to $66 billion, Education Week reports.

2. Mixed signals on school choice

The House bill increases funding for charter school grants by nearly $28 million to $370 million. This is a modest increase when compared with the president’s proposal to increase those same funds to around $500 million.

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The Appropriations Committee rejected the president’s proposed $1 billion for school choice programs, and included no such funds in its version of the bill. The bill also seems to completely cut the Education Innovation and Research program, which the Trump administration seeks to use to expand private school choice programs.

3. Teacher training gets the ax

The majority of savings in the House bill come from the elimination of Title II funding for teacher training and class-size reduction—currently $2 billion. The proposal would also cut grants for after-school programs from $1.2 billion to $1 billion.

For many education advocates, these proposed cuts still go too far. As NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement first reported by Education Week:

“If enacted, it will deprive millions of students of opportunities by eliminating funding that will result in nearly 8,500 educators losing their jobs, slashing funding for class-size reduction programs, cutting funding for after-school programs that serve the students most in need, and limiting or eliminating professional development opportunities for nearly 2.5 million educators.”

4. Modest increases for special education and ed-tech

The House bill would increase state special education grants by $200 million instead of the slight decrease proposed by the Trump administration. It would also boost the Title IV block grant by nearly $100 million, instead of eliminating it, as the president proposed. The grant funds a variety of school programs, including education technology and student well-being initiatives.

Other programs would maintain current funding levels, including state Title I funds for underserved students and funding for the Office of Civil Rights.

As the appropriations process moves forward, we’ll have to wait and see whether any major changes are made to the House’s proposal. In its current form, the bill stands in stark contrast to the drastic cuts proposed by the Trump administration earlier this year, but concerns linger.

What do you think of the House’s education budget proposal? How would the proposed budget affect your schools or district? Tell us in the comments.