Some questions:

Will President Trump's Budget proposal have any traction on Capitol Hill?
Will the President's $5.6 billion education cut be sustained?
Are you ready for the return of earmarks in appropriations bills?

Washington Update, February 14, 2020


Dear Colleagues:

Happy Valentine's Day. Education didn't get much love in the nation's capital this week, but there's still time!

1. Bad News for Education in President Trump's FY 2021 Budget Proposal

The FY 2021 appropriations process was officially launched with the release of the President's budget proposal on Monday. The budget is thematically similar to previous Trump budgets in that it calls for big spending cuts all around and proposes federal support for private schools in the form of a tax credit for donations to scholarship programs (called "Education Freedom Scholarships"). The proposal represents an overall 7.8% cut ($5.6 Billion) to the Department of Education. Key features of the proposal include:

Elementary and Secondary Education:

Higher Education: Institute for Education Sciences: Office for Civil Rights: The President's budget calls for greater cuts than are required by the budget agreement reached in the Congress last year. Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said that the Senate will follow the budget agreement, not the more drastic reductions called for by the President. The budget agreement allows for a $5 billion increase in Non-Defense Discretionary spending, of which education is a small portion. It is sure to be a challenging year for education funding, even with the rejection of the President's budget.

There is little to no chance that the voucher tax credit proposal or the consolidated block grant will be supported on the Hill. As Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) put it: "As with his previous budgets, this one is going nowhere."

From the Department of Education:

For more detail see the Department of Education's Budget Justification:

For a Democratic response:

2. House Democrats Push Pause on Restoring Earmarks

For the last few weeks, House Democrats have been discussing the possibility of bringing back the once-popular practice of earmarking in appropriations bills. Earmarks were funds directed to specific entities in the Districts/States of Members for projects they deemed worthy. They were controversial, often described as "pork", in that the projects which were funded were at times of questionable value. However, they were known for "greasing the wheels" of legislation. Members of Congress who might not otherwise vote to support a bill would do so if their earmarks, which brought money directly to their districts, were included. Some attribute the increased stalemates in Congress to the loss of earmarks.

There is bi-partisan support for restoring earmarks in the House, but only if new rules are designed to keep the process in check and add accountability and transparency. One proposal is that for-profits would be banned from receiving earmarks. While there is "near-unanimous" support among Democrats to return to earmarks, that will not happen in the 2021 fiscal year which is under consideration now. However, look for a push to return the practice in 2022.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) noted "we have to restore some balance between what the executive deems to be an important project and members of Congress representing the pieces of the American puzzle, what they represent in their areas... You just can't expect somebody over there at OMB, who knows nothing about the areas we represent, to have all the knowledge. We have to have some kind of restoration of legislative authority." Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said earmarks would allow Congress to reassert its "power of the purse."


3. President Trump's State of the Union Promise for Girl to Attend the School of Her Choice Becomes a Curiosity

One of the many made for TV moments in President Trump's SOTU last week was that he would provide a scholarship for a young girl so that she could attend the school of her choice. Noting that thousands of students are "trapped in failing government schools"' the President told her that "your long wait is over... you will soon be headed to the school of your choice." It was later reported that the scholarship would be personally funded by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Further investigation determined that the young student attends a popular charter school, Math Science and Technology Community Charter School (MaST III) in Philadelphia. When asked about whether she would change schools her mother, Stephanie Davis, said "I don't view MaST as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity."

So this leaves one to wonder, are charter schools "failing government schools?"


4. New Resources for Educators

Wishing you a joyful long holiday weekend! Hope to see you there, and if not see you on @janewestdc


Jane E. West Ph.D.
Education Policy Consultant
Cell: 202.812.9096
Twitter: @janewestdc

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