Education Policy Update

February 19, 2020

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The State of Education in Washington

President Trump released his $4.8 trillion budget proposal for FY 2021 spending last week. The president’s budget aims to cut non-defense spending, including funding for the U.S. Department of Education. President Trump requested $66.6 billion for the Department of Education for FY 2021, which represents a $5.6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, cut from enacted levels. While the president’s budget is dead on arrival in Congress, it provides insight on the president’s education priorities.

Expanding School Choice

School choice has always been a top priority for the Trump administration. As such, the president’s budget included up to $5 billion for the Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) program, a federal tax credit program for donations to organizations that grant scholarships to students to attend private school or other educational opportunities.

Reducing the Federal Role in Education

The president’s budget creates the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) block grant program by consolidating funding for 29 education programs (and $24 billion in spending) into one $19 billion block grant. The programs that will be consolidated include Title 1 programs, arts programs, and charter and magnet school programs among others. States will be able to determine how this funding is used as long it is used for authorized purposes, reducing the federal role in education, which is a long-time goal of the Trump administration.

Growing Career and Technical Education Programs

President Trump’s budget includes a $900 million increase for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The president has focused on the importance of CTE in recent weeks. On January 31, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation declaring February as CTE month. Additionally, the president mentioned CTE in his State of the Union address, asking Congress to support his goal of ensuring every high school student in America has access to CTE programs.

Changing the Student Loan Program

The president’s budget proposes to make cuts to the student loan program of almost $5 billion. The proposal would eliminate the public servant student loan forgives program, cap the amount of money graduate students and parents can borrow, and end supplemental grants for low income students. The plan would instead allow for undergraduate borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness after 15 years, down from the current 25 years. It also would expand Pell Grants to people in prison pursuing higher education degrees.

Education Priorities in the States

There are currently 43 state legislatures in session. Here is a quick snapshot on bills that state legislatures have taken action on in some way (introduced, new sponsor, committee hearing, passed, etc.) since the start of the year on a few key issues:

Teacher Shortage:  The legislature in 16 states have taken action on over 40 bills relating to teacher shortages since the start of the year.

Charter Schools: Twenty-two states have considered over 150 bills relating to charter schools since January 1.

School Safety: Since January, 27 states have taken action over 80 bills relating to school safety.

Early Childhood Education: State legislators in 17 states have taken action on over 40 bills relating to early childhood education.