Mar 26, 2019

President Trump’s 2020 Budget: The Good and Bad News for Education

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This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse lays out and simplifies this year’s education budget proposals.

As discussed for the last two budget cycles (here and here) President Trump is working to keep his 2016 campaign promise to cut the size and scope of the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Here is some of the good, bad and ugly of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget:

The Good News

The 2020 budget seeks to cut overall USED spending by $7.1 billion or ten percent. That is consistent with his previous budgets and a good start on what is a big job. Basically level funding is maintained for both Title I, the main federal education program for poor students in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and for the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Within that 10 percent, for a total of $6.7 billion, the proposed budget eliminates “funding for 29 programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, are ineffective, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds.”

Among those 29 programs proposed for elimination are several that we have followed over the years that are particularly invasive:

Full Service Community Schools — a.k.a. Parent Replacement Centers

21st Century Community Learning Centers — Besides being terribly ineffective, according to a national study performed by USED, there is evidence that these programs are actually harmful to behavior.

Safe and Supportive Schools Program — This $1.17 billion program is new since ESSA was passed in 2015 and contains many social and emotional learning programs with all of their subjectivity and data collection with the potential to live forever in the state longitudinal systems (SLDS), whether the data is accurate or not.

State Longitudinal Data Systems — Given the porousness of student data protections due to the age and weakness of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) already with rampant sharing of very sensitive student and family data, including SEL data,  with government agencies, corporations, and researchers, all without parental consent, this is possibly the best cut on the list.

The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that oversees the SLDS and all other federal education data mining is taking a 15 percent cut in this budget.

As it did last year, the budget request zeroes out the $250 million Preschool Development Grants. Given the near constant stream of data from the federal government or scholarly sources, even to the left of center, showing government preschool to be at best, ineffective, and at worst harmful, this is a very wise move.

Regional Education Laboratories — These education research centers have long been petri dishes for failed progressive policies that, as admitted by the head of one regional lab back in 1989, are seeking “…the total restructuring of society…”

Ready to Learn Television — This is further government supplementation of public broadcasting, which is already biased toward the left end of the political spectrum to produce government approved children’s programming that has contained many topics controversial among adults.

The Bad (or Less than Ideal) News

There is a push to use the savings from the eliminated or reduced funding to promote public and private school choice, a big priority for both the President and Secretary DeVos — but which has detractors on all points on the political spectrum. The significant problems with federal school choice from a conservative perspective, particularly the strong potential for imposing state tests and therefore the state standards, were discussed by Joy Pullman at The Federalist and by me a few weeks ago.

The budget calls for $53.4 million for school climate grants, including tiered programs like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), that begins with monitoring the attitudes and behaviors of the entire student population and advances toward intensified “interventions” as the staff determines children need more “help.” PBIS was originally included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to try to resolve academic or mental/SEL issues of “at-risk” students short of a full special-education referral, but ESSA expanded the program school-wide. Despite claims by proponents that PBIS is “evidence based” or “research based,” the federal PBIS technical support center admits that “school-wide PBIS is in its infancy” and that all of PBIS is quite experimental. In other words, there are no controlled trials involving large numbers of students to know if the concept really works. Nevertheless, PBIS is embraced uncritically in the public-education realm; even the federal School Safety Commission has recommended it as a means to prevent school violence. The literature on PBIS includes little to no discussion of how the universal or at-risk behaviors are chosen; what sensitive, personally identifiable information is collected on children for the various tiers; how children’s attitudes, values, and beliefs are modified; and what outcome data is included in children’s lifelong data dossiers (more about this below). Also, the phrase “parental consent” rarely, if ever, appears on PBIS explanatory websites.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately for the great cuts in this budget and fortunately for the bad items, if Congress, even under total Republican control, was unable or unwilling to pass most of the President’s budget request, it is highly unlikely to happen now, given that Democrats control the U.S. House. However, with the 2020 elections upcoming, there is a chance that if we unite, we can make our voices heard on these vital issues of academic excellence, parental autonomy, and privacy. Stay tuned!

The full article can be found on The National Pulse’s website.

 

 

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