The Hidden Numbers Behind President Trump’s Proposed Education Budget

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Written by: Michael Griffith
March 30, 2017

Earlier this month President Donald J. Trump issued a paper entitled “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” While not a completed budget request, it is an overview of the president’s goals for the 2018 federal budget. In this blueprint the president requests $59 billion for the United States Department of Education (ED). The president’s request would be a $9 billion (13%) decrease in spending from 2017. The president’s blueprint lacks details, however, if we pull apart the numbers we can gain an understanding of the impact under the president’s proposed budget.

A Quick Note About the Federal Budget

It gets a bit confusing but President Trump’s budget blueprint is dealing with the federal 2018 budget that runs from Oct. 1, 2017 - Sept. 30, 2018. The federal 2018 budget provides funding for the 2018-19 school year and not the upcoming 2017-18 school year. To make matters more confusing, congress has yet to adopt the 2017 federal budget – which should have been passed by Oct. 1, 2016. This means that congress and the president are currently working on the 2017 and 2018 federal budgets simultaneously.

Choice is a “Yuge” Winner

School choice programs would be winners under the president’s proposed budget. The president is requesting $1 billion for a new program under Title I that would encourage districts to adopt policies that allow funding to follow students to the public school of his/her choice. He is also proposing an increase in charter school funding of $168 million (50%) and the creation of new “private school choice” program with $250 million in funding. These three choice programs would be the only ED programs that would receive additional funding under the president’s budget.

Breaking Even

The president’s budget proposal states that funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Pell Grants would all be protected – which one can assume means that they will not be cut. It should be noted that the president is recommending that the Pell Grant reserve account be reduced by $3.9 billion. His proposed budget is silent about Title I, Part A funding, which is the largest K-12 program ($14.9 billion) in the ED’s budget.

Some Programs are Slated for the Chopping Block

The president’s blueprint recommends the elimination of some ED programs, these include:

The president also recommended that two programs see significant reductions:

Over $2 Billion in Unidentified Cuts

So time for some math – here is what we know:

  • Promised reduction in the ED budget - $9 billion.
  • Identified cuts (including reduction in Pell reserves): $8.4 billion.
  • Proposed funding increases: $1.4 billion.
  • Which leaves around $2 billion in unidentified cuts.

The president has proposed to protect certain programs from cuts including IDEA, HBCU and Pell grants. Let’s assume he is also holding Title I, Part A harmless. That means that approximately $52 billion (76.2%) of the ED budget would be protected. If we look at the protected programs along with the identified cuts that only leaves $7.9 billion left in the budget that would be open for cuts. Which means all of the ED programs that are left would have to be reduced by approximately 25% to meet the president’s budget goal. That could mean steep cuts for programs such as career and technical education, federal work-study and impact aid to districts.

It is important to remember that the president’s blueprint is simply a set of budgetary recommendations. This set of recommendations can, and probably will, change over time and it will be up to congress to make any decisions over the ED’s budget.


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