The impact of the current President of the United States and his administration on education is causing a great deal of concern to students, teachers and academics alike. Staying true to his promise of cutting the budget for education, President Trump has followed through on this promise by slashing funds for the Education Department by 13.5 percent, or $9.2 billion in his administration’s new “America First” budget.
The US’s Education Department comprises 5,000 employees, a $73 billion annual budget, and is responsible for some 98,000 public schools in the country. The proposal budget plan would remove $2.4 billion in grants for teacher training and $1.2 billion in funding for summer- and after-school programs. It also curtails or eliminates funding for around 20 departmental programs “that are not effective, or that do not serve national needs.”
Although decreased funding for the Education Department will have repercussions for students and educators across the country, low-income students would be affected dramatically. In addition to eliminating Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which offer need-based aid to around 1.6 million low-income undergraduates each year, the Trump administration wants to “significantly” reduce Federal Work-Study. Although work-study programs have been criticized for disproportionately aiding private institutions, they are typically successful at helping students graduate and find employment post-college.
The budget proposal also calls for around $200 million in cuts to federal TRIO programs, which benefit low-income, first-generation, and disabled students, and GEAR UP, a program that helps prepare low-income middle and high-school students for college.
Pell Grants are safe for now. They retain their $22.5 billion in discretionary funds, although the budget proposes $3.9 billion in cuts from the program’s $10.6 billion surplus. Many Republicans and Democrats anticipated this surplus funding would go toward helping students attend summer school.
Students with disabilities have continued access to special education by maintaining $13 billion in funding for IDEA programs. The current administration offers $492 million in funding for minority institutions and historically black colleges—a similar, yet slightly smaller, sum than was previously allotted.
The budget proposal as well las the current political climate is already creating concerns in all the student age groups.
Elementary School students are now experiencing the “Trump Effect”, a spike in stress and anxiety especially experienced by students from immigrant families (Trump’s campaign for the presidency frequently attacked immigrants in America). Bullying against the same students also saw a rise after Trump’s election.
Middle School and High School have the most impact on the formative years of schooling. Here too the “Trump Effect” is now pronounced. The proposal seeks to eliminate the Common Core, a set of uniform curriculum standards followed by public schools in the US that have been in effect since 2009. If the proposal is passed then it would require a massive teaching overhaul of the current system.
Perhaps the heaviest impact would affect Middle Schoolers with “School Choice”, something championed by the current administration and the current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. School Choice is having the federal money follow students around to classrooms of their parents’ choosing, which include charter schools and privately funded independent schools, not just geographically-assigned public institutions. School Choice is considered very controversial as earlier experiments showed that it actually worsened students’ academic performance.
University students also have to deal with the effect of this budget. Considered mostly as liberals they have to learn to cope with the current presidency. Campuses now have frequent protest marches that would disrupt classes. International students are now hesitant to applying to colleges in the US, given the president’s lack of welcome to immigrants in general. Trump’s also supports For-Profit colleges which have had a controversial track record for price gouging and misleading students.
If Trump’s travel ban holds, it would stop the arrival of many capable international graduate-level students in the country, which would dry up innovation, talent, research skills and not to mention the financial loss to the American economy.
Overall, decreased funding will make room for one of Trump’s top education priorities: school choice. Under the new budget, the Trump administration wants to spend $1.4 billion to expand vouchers in public and private schools, leading up to an eventual $20 billion a year in funding. About $250 million of these funds will go toward a private-school-choice program, while $168 million will be set aside for charter schools. An additional $1 billion would go toward Title I, a program for disadvantaged students whose current structure is opposed by many lawmakers. The Trump administration wants to allow federal, state, and local funding to follow students to the public schools of their choice.
In a nutshell, federal aid is out and school choice is in for the Educational budget. At the moment the budget request is still a request to Congress, where it is subject to re-working and votes of hundreds of members of Congress. What it does show is the indication of the priorities of the Trump Administration.