Education would suffer deep cuts under Donald Trump’s budget—a total of $9.2 billion, equal to 13.5 percent of the Education Department’s budget. That would include cuts to programs that help disadvantaged students prepare for college, cuts to after-school and summer programs, and cuts to teacher preparation and training. But one thing isn’t just dodging the cuts, it’s getting a big pile of extra money. No surprise, it’s a terrible idea:
Along with the cuts, among the steepest the agency has ever sustained, the administration is also proposing to shift $1.4 billion toward one of President Trump’s key priorities: Expanding charter schools, private-school vouchers and other alternatives to traditional public schools. His $59 billion education budget for 2018 would include an unprecedented federal investment in such “school choice” initiatives, signaling a push to reshape K-12 education in America.
The president is proposing a $168 million increase for charter schools — 50 percent above the current level — and a new $250 million private-school choice program, which would probably provide vouchers for families to use at private or parochial schools.
That’s public education funding going to programs intended to kill public education. The push to vouchers is a particularly radical move, and it’s not based on educational outcomes:
Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools.
In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.
These are the education priorities you make Betsy DeVos education secretary to push on the country. And they could damage public education for generations to come.