Secretary DeVos Defends Cuts to Career Technical Education, Continues to Promote School Choice

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Secretary DeVos Defends Cuts to Career Technical Education, Continues to Promote School Choice

Congress returned from last week’s recess ready to dive into the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget and appropriations process – and we’re ready to advocate on your behalf! Please continue to send your stories about what the proposed 15 percent cut to the Perkins Basic State Grant would mean for you to Katie Fitzgerald, kfitzgerald@careertech.org and we will follow up with you about featuring your story in our advocacy communications. Find more on the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee’s hearing on the FY18 Department of Education (ED) Budget and details on the Administration’s proposed initiatives around school choice below.
Secretary DeVos Defends Cuts to Career Technical Education
Keep your calls to Congress coming! It’s not too late to reach out to your Members of Congress to encourage them to support a strong investment in Perkins. Because of your advocacy, CTE was in the spotlight during the FY18 Budget hearing for ED (you can watch it online here) held by the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The proposed cuts to CTE came up quickly, as the subcommittee’s Chairman, Senator Blunt (R-MO) pointed them out specifically in his opening statement:
In reviewing this budget request it is difficult to know whether you made cuts because you believe the programs are truly ineffective or because your budget number required these reductions just to reach the bottom line. For example, I believe significant reductions to programs like Career and Technical Education, TRIO, and Federal Work Study will make it harder for students to get into and complete college, and go on to well-paying jobs.”
While Secretary DeVos did not have the opportunity to respond during the opening statements, she did have the opportunity to do so when Senator Shelby (R-AL) asked about the perceived implications of the proposed cuts to the Perkins Basic State Grants in light of the continued need for skilled workers. Secretary DeVos responded by saying that there’s an opportunity to look at how some CTE efforts have been siloed, that there is some overlap between CTE and programs administered through the Department of Labor, and that there is a need to think holistically about how higher education legislation can support opportunities in CTE. Secretary DeVos provided a similar answer and emphasized the need to foster innovation when Senator Baldwin (D-WI) asked how the $20 million for competitive grants would make up for over $1.5 billion lost via formula grants through Perkins, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and the Student Success and Academic Enrichment grants (authorized under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act). Senator Schatz (D-HI) mentioned CTE in his remarks and Senator Murphy (D-CT) referenced the “massive cuts in CTE” when addressing the Administration’s school choice proposal (more details below).
More Than $1.4 Billion in Increases for School Choice in FY18 ED Budget Proposal
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee’s hearing on the FY18 Department of Education Budget included many questions about the additional $1 billion in Title I funding for school choice and the increases for other programs that would focus on it. What are the specific funding levels and purposes of the programs? The ED press release describes them as follows:

  • $1 billion increase for Title I for new Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants. FOCUS grants would provide supplemental awards to school districts that adopt student-centered weighted student funding formulas combined with open enrollment systems.
  • $250 million increase for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program for competitive awards for applicants to provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.
  • $167 million increase for the Charter Schools Grants program to strengthen State efforts to start new charter schools or expand and replicate existing high-performing charter schools while providing up to $100 million to meet the growing demand for charter school facilities.”

It is ultimately up to Congress to determine the fate of these programs and the others included (and excluded) in the Administration’s FY18 Budget Proposal for ED: appropriators make the call as to whether ED programs are funded and the level at which to fund them. We will continue to provide updates as Congress works through the budget and appropriations process for FY18.
Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy