Here’s The Skinny: Trump’s Trying To Push A Voucher Plan On Us

By law, the president must present a budget to Congress every year. In a president’s inaugural year, that budget contains less detail than in other years, and it’s often referred to as a “skinny budget.”  

This morning, President Donald J. Trump revealed his skinny budget, and it’s both skinny on details and in its support for public education. The Trump plan would cut the Department of Education’s budget by 13.5 percent, which according to The Washington Post, would be “a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.”

At the same time, the budget would funnel $250 million of taxpayer dollars into a private school voucher program and use an additional $1 billion to fund a reckless experiment called “portability” that could be a stepping stone to even more voucher plans.  

There are so many reasons to oppose Trump’s $250 million voucher program. Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students. They are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty, among other things.

The “portability” scheme is also very troubling. A provision in a federal law called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as Title I is designed to provide extra funding to public schools serving students in areas with high concentrations of poverty.

The goal of the program is to provide extra resources to schools that must deal with the compounded impact of poverty on student learning. Trump proposes using $1 billion to encourage states to adopt “portability”: Instead of the Title I money funding schools with concentrations of poverty, the funds would “follow the child” to whichever public school the child attends.

President Trump's budget proposal to divert tax dollars to private school voucher programs is a bad idea for American schoolchildren.

These programs run counter to the purpose of Title I. Portability dismantles the Title I funding stream that would otherwise provide critical school-wide programs for schools in high-poverty areas and leaves those schools most in need with fewer resources.

In addition, once the funds can “follow” each student to any public school regardless of their need, it becomes easier for voucher advocates to argue that the funds should also be allowed to follow the student to a private school.  

That’s why the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), which AU chairs, spoke out against these budget provisions this morning. In addition to pointing out the above problems with vouchers, the NCPE statement also highlights that “vouchers underserve many students, including low-income students who often cannot afford private schools even with a voucher, students in rural areas who may have no other educational options nearby, and students with disabilities who often cannot find private schools to serve their needs.”

Americans United will be working with NCPE to defeat this proposal. You can fight back, too. If you haven’t already, you can send a message to your federal and state representatives to let them know you oppose voucher and tuition tax credit programs.