05/23/2017

Budget reveals Trump's dark side, Weingarten tells reporters

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"Cruel to children and catastrophic to public education" is how AFT President Randi Weingarten characterized President Donald Trump's budget proposal.

Speaking with reporters on the morning that the White House rolled out the plan, Weingarten hit back hard against Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who are seeking $10.6 billion in federal education cuts in the next fiscal year after factoring in more than $1 billion for vouchers and other school choice options.

"The budget shows a side of Donald Trump that I had not ever really seen," Weingarten told the media. "Trump has shown a lot of cruelty to his enemies, but the cruelty here shown to children is unparalleled."

In the K-12 arena,Trump and DeVos want to eliminate more than 20 programs, including after-school and summer programs that serve 1.6 million children, and slash $2.1 billion for teacher training and class size reduction. The budget plan also would cut $168 million for career and technical education, and $800 billion in Medicaid, a lifeline for students with special needs as well as millions of low-income families.

The plan is "manifestly cruel to kids," the AFT president charged. "It is catastrophic to the public schools our most vulnerable and at-risk students attend, while being a windfall for those who want to profit off of kids or make education a commodity rather than a great equalizer and an anchor of democracy."

In higher education, the White House is asking Congress to ax $143 million in funds that help students afford college, including elimination of a loan forgiveness program that currently helps half a million Americans pursue careers in teaching and public service. Also on the White House chopping block are work-study programs, subsidized loans for students, grant funding for 1.6 million students with exceptional financial needs, and programs providing the child care many students with kids need to attend college.

The higher ed proposal "betrays not only Americans hoping to join the middle class, but also the economy, which needs qualified workers to grow," Weingarten warned.

The White House budget would eliminate more than 20 programs in all, with many more suffering devastating cuts. Many of the dollars cut would be shifted to school choice. Trump and DeVos are seeking $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. Another $1 billion would be diverted into new grants that pressure public schools to adopt school-choice policies through federal incentives that are modeled after former Education Secretary Arne Duncan's now-defunct Race to the Top program. The White House also moves $250 million into new grants for voucher research and expansion, even though a recent study by the Education Department's own Institute of Education Sciences shows that the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only school voucher initiative currently supported by federal funding, has not raised student achievement.

What Trump and DeVos have proposed also is at odds with the investments made by Congress just a few weeks ago, in a spending bill for the current fiscal year.

[staff reports]