Idaho Educators Have Big Concerns Over Trump's 'Skinny' Spending Plan

Apr 7, 2017

Credit Idaho Ed News

For 140 students in Cassia County, the school day doesn’t end with the afternoon bell. And the school year continues past spring.

These elementary and junior high school students are enrolled in SPARK, an after-school program that provides students homework help, a healthy snack and maybe an introduction to coding. In the summer, SPARK combines academic programs with some fun, such as swimming. No student is turned away. But the primary goal is to provide a safe, enriching environment to low-income students or English language learners.

“We’re trying to give them more opportunities, living in a rural area,” said Katie Muir, SPARK’s program director. “Sometimes kids just want to go home and get on their devices. We offer a different opportunity.”

Muir covers the costs — staffing, training, snacks and supplies — through $310,000 in federal grants. Those dollars are in jeopardy.

Last month, President Trump recommended zeroing out funding for programs such as SPARK. He also proposed killing a nationwide teacher training program.

The recommendations came in the president’s “skinny” budget — Capitol Hill parlance for a summarized spending outline. The details will come later, but some Idaho educators are already worried.

NUMBERS AND PRIORITIES

Unveiled on March 16, Trump’s “skinny” budget summary proposes significant cuts in education funding — and a significant shift in priorities.

The $59 billion Education Department budget represents a decrease of $9 billion, or a 13 percent cut.

Even so, the budget adds $1.4 billion for various school choice initiatives, including a $168 million increase for charter schools and a new, $250 million private school choice program. The $1.4 billion represents a down payment on Trump’s vision for a $20 billion school choice program, a promise from his 2016 campaign.

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