Unveiled on Monday, the Trump administration’s 2020 Budget Request eliminates 29 programs, for an annual savings of $6.7 billion compared to the fiscal year 2019. The US Department of Education’s summary of the budget states “The Request supports the Administration’s commitment to eliminating funding for programs that have achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.“
That same afternoon State CAPE leaders, including WFIS Executive Director Suzie Hanson, met with U.S. Secretary of Eduction Betsy Devos at the US Department of Education. The Secretary touched on the newly unveiled Freedom Scholarships ACT which is intended to expand educational opportunities while respecting the role of States by creating a $5 billion tax credit fund with 90% provided as scholarships. Existing Scholarship Grating Organizations would automatically be enrolled, but it is also meant to encourage States that have not previously offered any such program to get creative designating one or more programs to receive tax credit funds as scholarships in some form.
- States will identify the granting organizations (SGO’s) which need to be 503c non-profits
- Scholarships can include preK, unique needs, rural schools, etc.
- Funds allotment must be supporting educational services
- Programs could define terms to not include public school options but must include multiple providers
- Education grant could not discriminate against religious providers
The EFSOA (Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act) money will be to boost those states that already have school choice programs. WA State currently does not have any such program available to students and families. WFIS has already heard frustration from schools over “the fact that the states will be administering these scholarships, creating an arduous, prolonged, and circuitous method of gaining access to federal funds.”
At this same meeting Secretary Devos unveiled her letter to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi stating the Department Of Justice will no longer enforce discriminatory practices requiring that an equitable services-provider must be free of religious affiliation. CAPE Leaders applauded the long overdue acknowledgment that Blaine amendments prevent private school students and families from receiving equitable services.
Unfortunately, the State CAPE network had little time to digest the President’s 2020 Budget Request prior to their meeting with Secretary Devos. In the 24hrs since, educators across the public and private divide are speaking out against the proposed budget summary which completely eliminates Title II funding for teacher training. They are “extremely alarmed … due to its dramatic reduction in direct access to funds used to support students & teachers…” as called out by one WFIS Member School.
Washington State Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, made a statement criticizing Devos and the budget’s Education Department proposals:
“Secretary DeVos is proposing gutting investments in students, teachers, public schools, and even school safety — all to make room for her extreme privatization proposal that no one asked for. This is not a serious budget proposal, and I am going to once again work with Republicans in Congress to ensure every student has access to a quality public education in their neighborhood”.