Senate Appropriations Has No Funding For Betsy DeVos’ Private School Voucher Hopes

09/10/2017 10:00 pm ET Updated Sep 11, 2017
Us Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
Huffington Post
Us Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

During his campaign for president, in September 2016, Donald Trump said that he planned to devote $20 billion toward an education block grant that would allow for unprecedented school choice: namely, portability of funding so that every student could choose to attend any school – traditional public, charter, or private.

In May 2017, Trump proposed a budget that would have cut a net $9.2 billion from the federal education coffers. Moreover, by cutting other federally funded ed programs, Trump’s plan included devoting $1 billion in Title I funds to a private school voucher program that he planned to slyly graft into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I program.

Though his proposed education budget was notably different than his campaign promise of $20 billion in education block grant funding, Trump’s focus on sending public money to private schools in the name of “choice” remains.

When asked by the Washington Post to respond to Trump’s budget, Senator Lamar Alexander succinctly noted, “under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills.”

And so it does.

On Sept. 6, 2017, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee approved a FY2018 funding bill that included no inkling of a $1 billion Title I allotment that would be devoted to Trump’s proposed private school voucher, Title I graft-in program.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the Subcommittee’s Labor-HHS appropriations bill by a vote of 29-2. The bill must pass both houses of Congress and be signed by Trump by Oct. 1, 2017, the first day of the federal fiscal year 2018. If the appropriations bills are not approved by the start to FY2018, then the Senate Committee on Appropriations would need to draft a continuing resolution, a carry-over piece of legislation to keep the government operating until appropriations bills are approved. (For more on the history of appropriations and the budget process in general, see this Government Printing Office publication.)

Even though the Senate’s Labor-HHS appropriations bill has a way to go before it becomes law, one issue is clear: The private school choice latched onto by Trump and lovingly nurtured by U.S. ed sec Betsy DeVos will not be bolstered by a billion Title I bucks.

And it’s not just a Senate dismissal of the Trump-DeVos wish for private school choice mega funds. In July 2017, the House also bypassed Trump’s billion-dollar, private school choice funding request.

In its remarks about the process of constructing its Labor-HHS bill, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee noted that its goal was to produce a workable, bipartisan compromise.

The Trump-DeVos private school choice push was just too extreme for bipartisan agreement. Plus, the requested billion would have been used not for established Title I purposes but for funding an unapproved leech of a program.

As Alyson Klein of EdWeek reports, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee directly addressed the attempt to funnel Title I funds into private school choice:

The [Trump] administration had sought a $1 billion boost for the nearly $15 billion Title I program, the largest federal K-12 program, which is aimed at covering the cost of educating disadvantaged students. The Trump administration had wanted to use that increase to help districts create or expand public school choice programs. ...
The Senate bill essentially rejects both of those pitches. It instead would provide a $25 million boost for Title I....
But importantly, the legislation wouldn’t give U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team the authority to use that money for school choice. In fact, the committee said in language accompanying the bill that the secretary of Education Betsy DeVos must get permission from Congress to create a school choice initiative with the funds. [Emphasis added.]

So, if Betsy DeVos wants to use Title I money to fund her private school choice pet, she must be willing to subject her ambitions to a Congress that appears likely to award only token funding at best.

That is good news for traditional public schools.

For Betsy’s plans, not so much.

Originally posted 09-07-17 at deutsch29.wordpress.com.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

 

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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