The Department of Education budget blueprint was announced yesterday. It was very predictable and low-income students are the ones at risk. Let’s break it down:
Poor Kids Just Lost Extra Help and Teachers Lost Some Trainings
$13 Billion dollars are being cut mainly from afterschool and summer programs. FYI, these after school programs provide much needed variation in learning through smaller group student attention than can’t be given in the school day.
And, summer programs mitigate summer learning loss which is hugely disproportional for poor kids of color. This summer brain-drain actually widens the gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers exponentially year-over-year.
So, let’s be clear. It’s not those who can afford $300/week summer camps and $50/hour tutoring, and other amazing afterschool camps, that will lose here. Both these programs target very real issues for the poorest kids in our country. This one will sting.
The other chuck of the cut will affect teacher trainings and professional development. Sigh… Training always goes first in budget cuts. Too predictable to even delve into.
New Voucher Program for Private Schools
$250 Million will be reallocated to a new “Private School Choice Program”. This is vouchers people.
The logic is that all parents should be afforded the same options as parents with the financial means to afford it. If your kid makes the grade to get into the private school (because there will an entrance tests, make no bones about that), the government wants help you pay for it.
Basically, your public tax-paying dollars just went to private for-profit institutions with no accountability to you. Their academic standards, teacher qualifications and schools finances are none of your business, Mr. & Mrs. Tax-payer.
Vouchers have a poor track record in Florida and are a bad move for poor kids.
Charters Schools Just Got a Raise
$168 Million has been added to funding for charter schools.
Charters are regarded as incubators for school innovation and healthy competition for traditional public schools. In many cases, districts like Miami-Dade and Broward seek opportunity to insert high-quality charter schools in low-income neighborhoods. But, charters are less regulated and scrutinized than our public schools, leaving parents uncomfortable with the standards they are being held to.
Title 1 Gets a $1 Billion Boost
Title 1 dollars go directly to helping our kids who are struggling the most. This is great news!
But there’s a catch. The money follows the child which could create havoc on a system already fighting to draw down all the dollars needed to teach all kids equally. Can you image trying to pay your bills never knowing how much money you will have in the bank at any given time? There needs to be guidelines around how frequently dollars are shifted to be sure schools have what they need, and that parents aren’t playing hot-potato with their kids’ education.
Also, chopping up Title 1 dollars into little bits dilute its impact and is hugely counterproductive considering that poor families live in very specific communities.
Aid for College Was Not Spared
College students took a hit too. Pell grants remain fairly level but lose $3.9 Billion in surplus funding. Poorer college kids will have less money for work-study and aid during undergraduate year. And college success programs the target low-income teens like GEAR UP, including those with disabilities like TRIO, saw a $20 Million cut.
Now, this all goes to Congress to negotiate, soften, and make real. But the writing is on the wall. I think I already know how this story will end.