State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Tuesday urged Congress to reject President Trump’s federal education budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to teacher training, after school programs, mental health services, advanced coursework, and many other important programs.
“I give this budget an ‘F’ grade for failing public school students in California and across the nation,” said Torlakson, who leads the country’s largest public school system with more than 6.2 million total students. “We need to invest more in our public schools, not slash away at programs that help students succeed.”
Torlakson noted that the proposed Trump budget heads in a completely different direction than the California approach to education funding.
“In California, we are providing more resources to students with the greatest needs,” he said. “The proposed Trump budget takes money away from federal programs that benefit our most vulnerable students, including after school programs that engage our students, help them stay in school, and make communities safer by reducing crime.”
The President’s budget would cut federal education programs across the board and use the money to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and offer another $1 billion to push public schools to favor charter and private schools.
Torlakson noted that California already has nearly 1,000 public charter schools out of more than 10,000 total schools. And students and their families can use several existing methods to transfer between public schools.
In addition, California voters have resoundingly rejected school voucher proposals, which allow students to use public funding to attend private and religious schools. Voters in 2000 cast a 71 percent “No” vote on Proposition 38, which would have created a California voucher program. A similar effort, Proposition 174, received a 70 percent “No” vote in 1993.
“Vouchers are unpopular in California,” Torlakson said. “They take critical resources away from our public schools.”
The Trump budget proposes eliminating at least 22 programs nationwide. Gone, for example, would be $1.2 billion for after school programs that serve 1.6 million children, most of whom are poor, and $2.1 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction.
California, with the most public school students and schools of any state, would suffer, Torlakson said. For example, the federal cuts would decimate federally funded before-, after- and summer school programs that serve nearly 500,000 California’s students at nearly 5,000 sites statewide.
Other federal programs would suffer significant cuts, including grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $166 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding. Basic adult literacy instruction would lose $95 million.
No money at all would go to a fund for student support and academic enrichment that help schools pay for mental health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses, and science and engineering instruction. Congress created the fund, which totals $400 million this fiscal year, by rolling together several smaller programs. The administration’s budget for it would be zero in the next fiscal year.
“We need the federal government to help support all California students as they learn on their way to success in 21st century careers and college,” Torlakson said. “This budget fails. Congress needs to send it back, correct these errors, and produce a school budget that makes our great nation proud.”
Congress is scheduled to adopt a budget that would start with the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2017.