WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda Weingarten is super excited that the Senate Appropriations Committee killed federal funding to expand school choice programs.
“Big deal – Senate panel rejects Trump’s teacher-funding cuts and school choice proposals,” Weingarten posted to Twitter after Thursday’s committee meeting. “Important rejection of @BetsyDeVosED and @realDonaldTrump’s anti-public education agenda – by Senate budgeteers.” The nation’s teachers unions have long opposed allowing parents to choose the best education for their children because school choice directly threatens the union monopoly on public education.
Big deal- Senate panel rejects Trump’s teacher-funding cuts and school choice proposals https://t.co/wKbksx90qR
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) September 7, 2017
The committee, headed by Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, voted 29-2 to approve the annual funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.
Senators ignored Trump’s requested budget cut to $59 billion for the Education Department, and instead increased the budget to $68 billion. The committee included a $2 billion Title II program for teacher training Trump wanted to cut, but rejected a $1 billion increase in the Trump budget for expanding school choice programs, according to The Washington Examiner.
The measure also includes language that tasks U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with begging permission from Congress to create any school choice initiatives with certain funding.
The administration had sought a $1 billion boost for the nearly $15 billion Title I program, the largest federal K-12 program, which is aimed at covering the cost of educating disadvantaged students. The Trump administration had wanted to use that increase to help districts create or expand public school choice programs. And it had hoped to use the Education Innovation and Research program to nurture private school choice.
The Senate bill essentially rejects both of those pitches. It instead would provide a $25 million boost for Title I, and $95 million for the research program, a slight cut from the current level of $100 million.
But importantly, the legislation wouldn’t give U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team the authority to use that money for school choice. In fact, the committee said in language accompanying the bill that the secretary of Education Betsy DeVos must get permission from Congress to create a school choice initiative with the funds.
The proposal does include a $25 million increase for charter school grants, though Trump’s budget included a $167 million increase.
Like Weingarten, several Senators applauded their handiwork.
“This bill upholds important investments in programs that affect all Americans,” Cochran said. “It continues support for medical research, funding flexibility for states to improve education, and job training opportunities for the unemployed or underemployed.”
“After millions of students, parents and teachers stood up and rejected Secretary DeVos’ extreme privatization agenda, I’m pleased that Republicans and Democrats in Congress ignored her requests to gut programs that help students from preschool to college and beyond, and instead continued to invest in the overwhelming majority of students who attend public schools,” Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “While this budget is not what I would have proposed on my own, I am pleased we are continuing to invest in our students and educators, and I will continue to hold Secretary DeVos accountable if she tries to undermine our public schools.”
The Senate budget approved on Thursday follows a vote in the House earlier this year that also rejected Trump’s school choice proposals.