By Layla Avila and Sharhonda Bossier
The President’s recently proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018, if adopted, would cut essential safeguards for our most vulnerable students, keep communities in or exacerbate poverty and entrench discrimination in our national education system. When examined through the lens of EdLoC’s Third Way Values and policy priorities, the punitive and extraordinarily short-sighted nature of the proposed programmatic cuts couldn’t be clearer.
The proposed budget stands in direct opposition to one of our central priorities: removing barriers our students and families face to exiting poverty and achieving economic mobility. By making almost $150 billion in cuts to grant aid, student loans and work study, the budget would increase the debt of millions of students and make it harder for many to repay — thereby further reducing college access and upward mobility for college graduates, particularly those who come from less affluent families.
The hundreds of billions in proposed cuts to critical safety net programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, and affordable housing, would create dire consequences for our families and children, including, as recent research has demonstrated, undermining educational success.
By disinvesting by the billions in education along the entire education continuum — cutting federal support for preschoolers, students in elementary school, children who use afterschool programs, and high schoolers seeking preparation for the workforce — these cuts also would thwart EdLoC’s overriding goal of ensuring that all of our students receive deep and rigorous college and career preparation, as well as enriching, high-quality experiences that will expand the world in which they live far beyond the boundaries of their neighborhoods and communities.
Within this context, it stretches the imagination to believe that improving the well-being of poor children (the professed beneficiaries of choice programs) is the administration’s motive for seeking a $158 million increase in charter school grants, a new $250 million program to research private school vouchers, and a $1 billion public school choice program under Title I.
EdLoC acknowledges the ample room for improvement in a number of federal education programs and recognizes that consolidating some of them could streamline administration and enable greater coordination of services to children. However, drastic across the board cuts would reduce the effectiveness of existing programs, exacerbate educational inequality and erect further barriers to the success of our children and families. While the final budget that Congress approves often departs significantly from a President’s proposal, we cannot accept “less bad” as good enough.
We believe that any organization working to improve opportunities for Black, Latinx and other vulnerable students and toward more equitable educational and life outcomes should stand firm against this Administration’s vision for education and its morally bankrupt budget framework.
Layla Avila is the CEO and Sharhonda Bossier is the Deputy Director of Education Leaders of Color.