Every February, the president is required to submit a budget proposal. On March 15, somewhat late (like his last two predecessors), President Trump released his fiscal year 2018 proposed budget. The budget process can be broken down into five stages, and it all begins with the president’s proposal. Because passing a budget is a multi-step process, what is enacted often looks completely different than the initial proposal.
President Trump used his budget proposal to include cuts to the majority of federal agencies in order to enhance the Department of Defense budget without creating a larger deficit. The proposal for the Department of Education specifically includes a $9 billion or 13 percent reduction below the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level. In a quick two-page reference to the Department of Education, the Trump administration made clear where its priorities lie.
The proposed budget focuses a great deal on charter schools and vouchers, including an increase in investments for public and private school choice by $1.4 billion compared to the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level, ramping up to an annual total of $20 billion, and an estimated $100 billion including matching state and local funds.
Along with additional funds for charters and vouchers, the proposed budget calls for a $1 billion increase for Title I, dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables federal, state and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.
The budget would slash funding for professional development by eliminating the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program. Reasons given for eliminating certain programs most often had to do with their duplicative nature, or lack of evidence for effectively closing the student achievement gap.
This is a significant change from past federal funding priorities. Interestingly, the proposed budget makes no mention of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes Title IV, the Student Support and Academic Enrichments Grants program. This program plays an important role in encouraging technology integration in K-12 education. The law authorizes up to $1.65 billion for Title IV, but the money for it has not been allocated in the budget.
Ensuring those funds are allocated is extremely important to the future of digital education. Now is the time to reach out to your elected officials and help them understand the importance technology plays in transforming education to a meaningful and successful learning environment for students. Since this is only a proposal, there is time to negotiate. Stakeholders must provide their input and thoughtfully explain why technology should be a priority in the budget.
Congress spent countless hours crafting ESSA, and it ultimately will be left up to the members to allocate the necessary funds to support the law’s successful implementation and its intentions for improving student achievement.