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Betsy DeVos Watch: 2021 Education Budget proposal will do for public education what Citizen’s United did for the electoral process

February 12, 2020

On Monday, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, posted a a press release about President Trump’s proposed education budget. DeVos refers to the budget proposal as. “a transformative, student-first budget.” 

The press release goes on to say:

“This budget proposal is about one thing—putting students and their needs above all else,” said Secretary DeVos. “That starts with creating Education Freedom Scholarships and helping 1 million more students find the best educational fit for them. We know education freedom helps students succeed, and it’s long past time for Congress to act to give students and their families more choices and more control.”

Once again, Betsy DeVos loves to claim that the Department of Education is all about “putting students and their needs above all else.” She supports this claim by suggesting that Congress pass the Education Freedom Scholarships bill, which essentially allows people and corporations to donate to a designated scholarship granting organization (SGO) and be reimbursed in the form of a tax credit. With the DeVos plan, states would designate the eligible SGOs, but the federal government would fund the tax credit reimbursement, up to $5 billion total. Once again, public money (in the form of tax credits) would be used to support Charter and Private school systems.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the proposed education budget would consolidate, “nearly all existing K-12 formula and competitive grant programs into one block grant to States, called the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant.”

This means that programs like Migrant Education, Neglected and Delinquent Education, English Language Acquisition, Education for Homeless Children, Rural Education, Native Hawaiian Education, Alaska Native Education, Arts in Education and a whole list of programs have NO money allocated to them in the 2021 Education Budget. Instead, States and local school districts would have complete control over how the ESED Block Grants would be spent, which means that States and local school districts would have the power to channel funding to the projects they support, which many NOT include funding for some of the most vulnerable students in the country. For a full list of the programs impact in the proposed consolidation, click here. Notice that in the 2021 Budget Request there are no funds that are earmarked for these programs.

At the end of the press release, DeVos includes comments from 10 supporters of the proposed education budget. Some of those included are politicians, while others are CEO’s of organizations that embrace the Neo-Liberal Education model such as Project Lead the Way and the National Skills Coalition.

Interesting to note that there are already numerous entities that are speaking out against the Trump/DeVos proposed Education Budget. The Council for Opportunity in Education says that the proposed budget would slash overall funding for the TRIO programs by 13% or $140 million. 

Americans for the Arts wrote a critique of the proposed Education Budget and is calling on Congress to not only reject this misdirected budget request, but further increase funding for these important cultural agencies. 

The American Library Association said:

The White House proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) again dismisses the value of America’s 120,000 academic, public, school and special libraries. The administration’s new budget not only brushes aside IMLS, it decreases funding for other library-eligible education programs.

Even the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an entity which has benefited from the Neo-Liberal Education Model, came out against the proposed Education Budget with this comment: 

“President Trump has consistently said that school choice is a priority for his administration, but this budget, if enacted, would leave families in need with fewer school options. The education vision put forward by this budget is chilling. It would provide—through the proposed ‘Education Freedom Scholarships’ tax credit—extra federal financial help for families to access private schools, while withdrawing support for public school choice for our most vulnerable families by doing away with the Charter Schools Program (CSP).

We must not be fooled by Betsy DeVos’s claim that the budget is all about empowering students and parents. The proposed Education Budget for 2021, will continue to push the Neo-Liberal Education model, especially if Congress passes the Education Freedom Scholarship bill that will do for education what Citizens United did for the electoral process.

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