“$1 bill Cut by Scissors,” Credit: TaxRebate.org.uk

April 3, 2019: Washington Post

Not long ago, the Trump administration proposed to “zero out” a $17.6 million line-item of federal support of the Special Olympics. Within days, the administration walked back the proposal. But as Valerie Strauss reports in the Washington Post, there are a lot of other cuts in that budget that are worth paying attention to. Of course, it may be that, as happened a year ago, the administration’s budget will essentially be ignored. Still, it is worth noting that many threatened cuts remain. As Strauss details, threatened cuts include the following:

  • $1.2 billion for programs that help boost student academic achievement before and after school and during the summer.
  • $190 million to boost literacy instruction from birth to age 20, plus $27 million for grants aimed at improving literacy by supporting school libraries, professional development for school librarians, and the provision of high-quality books to children and adolescents in low-income communities.
  • $27 million for arts education programs for children from low-income families and students with disabilities.
  • $10 million to boost community schools, which address the comprehensive academic, social, and health services of students and families.
  • More than $207 billion over 10 years from student loan programs, including the elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars that go toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and of Stafford subsidized loans for low-income students.

The public sector loan forgiveness program, of course, affects not just public sector workers, but also the nonprofit sector workforce, as NPQ has regularly covered. A summary of the overall administration’s proposed FY 2020 budget for the education department is available here.

One key issue at stake at the K–12 level, notes Strauss, is whether federal education policy reinforces existing inequities on the nation’s public education system or serves to mitigate those inequities. As NPQ readers are well aware, the decentralization of US education into local school districts makes it difficult to even talk about a national system, but the data do illustrate some overall tendencies.

As Strauss points out, a 2018 report by the nonprofit Education Trust found that school districts serving large numbers of Black, Latinx, and American Indian students receive roughly $1,800 less per student—13 percent less—in state and local funding than primarily white school districts. For a school district of 5,000 students, that amounts to $9 million less, even as the students’ needs are higher.

In education, Title I is the main federal policy that seeks to address these inequities, but many of the administration’s program cuts are concentrated in that section. For example, one of the cuts listed above, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a $1.2 billion program, supports before-school, afterschool, and summer academic enrichment opportunities for nearly two million students at about 11,500 schools and would be eliminated if Congress were to go along with the administration’s preferences. A useful summary of proposed budget cuts is available here.

But the budget does not propose cuts everywhere. As Strauss points out, the proposed budget would “create a $5 billion federal tax credit that would use public funds to send students to private and religious schools.” It also would boost federal funding of charter schools by $60 billion. In short, the competing values are evident. For nonprofits, as always, vigilance and advocacy are required.—Steve Dubb