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Betsy DeVos Watch: Education Budget Cuts will hurt communities of color, working class families and promote the privatization of schools

May 22, 2017

The Trump administration is supposed to release their proposed Education Department Budget cuts this Tuesday, followed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos going before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

However, there have been several news outlets that have gained access to the proposed education cuts through leaked documents. The proposed education budget cuts would total of $10.6 billion will be cut from existing programs, with a share of those “savings” invested in school choice.

Here is a breakdown of the proposed education budget cuts:

As was predicted with the nomination of Betsy DeVos, this focus of the new administration would be to accelerate the further privatization of public education, a process that has been happening over the past several decades.

According to a recent article by Jeff Bryant, A glaring example of this pivot to the private sector is the plan’s cuts to programs that make public schools attractive options for parents, especially in low-income communities, while boosting federal support for “school choice” that incentivizes parents to turn to charter schools and private schools instead. 

The proposed education budget cuts would most negatively impact communities of color. Two examples of how these budget cuts will impact communities of color, are the cuts to Alaska Native Education ($32.4 million) and Native Hawaiian Education ($33.3 million) programs.

The Washington Post, which also obtained the leaked documents, provides a useful breakdown of the administration’s rationale for each of the proposed education budget cuts. For the Alaskan Native Education program it states:

This program supports supplemental education services for a very high-need student population facing unique challenges in obtaining a high-quality education.  The Alaska Native Education program largely duplicates services that may be funded through the $260 million in other Federal elementary and secondary programs that support Alaska as well as State, local, and private funds.

A similar rationale is provided for the cuts to the Native Hawaiian Education program.

What is equally devastating are the cuts to support arts education, international studies and foreign languages. A $400 million fund to pay for an array of school-enriching services and academics — such as mental-health support, anti-bullying programs and advanced courses — gets zero. Even money for Special Olympics education programs would be gone.

In addition, these proposed budget cuts provide greater opportunities for the super rich and corporations to channel money into private education programs, programs that the super rich and corporations can write off as major tax deductions.

A new report from the School Superintendents Association and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, confirms this analysis on how school privatization and voucher programs will benefit the capitalist class.

Public Loss, Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education exposes how state and federal tax policy promotes the privatization of education funding while simultaneously draining public coffers to enable savvy taxpayers to turn a profit. 

The report notes that, “Seventeen states divert a total of over $1 billion per year toward private schools via school voucher tax credits. When combined with a federal tax loophole, nine of these states’ credits are so lucrative that they allow some upper income taxpayers to turn a profit (at federal taxpayer expense) on contributions they make to fund private school vouchers, all while leaving less resources available for federal investments in education. Simply put, wealthy taxpayers are benefiting from a federally sanctioned voucher tax shelter.”

The graphic on the right provides an example of how the school privatization/voucher system will benefit the capitalist class.

The report also notes the following:

The Educational Opportunities Act (HR 895 /S 148) would put two new types of voucher tax shelters within reach for many more Americans, and for profitable corporations. It would allow individual taxpayers and businesses in any state to receive federal tax credits for donations to school voucher nonprofits, up to $4,500 per year for individuals or $100,000 per year for corporations. Donors in states with state voucher tax credit programs would also be eligible for a state credit. By stacking federal credits and state credits together on a single donation, some individuals and corporations would be able to double their money by claiming a dollar in state credit and a dollar in federal credit for each dollar donated. The result would be a risk-free, 100% profit of up to $4,500 per year for individuals or up to $100,000 for corporations. Wealth managers and tax accountants would be foolish to not advise their clients to take advantage of this handout from their federal and state governments.

Just one more example of how policy benefits the capitalist class and harms working class and communities of color.

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