- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2017


Did President Trump really take a “meat cleaver” to federal education spending, as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said? Or did Mr. Trump, after becoming president, consider the hand that states, localities and parents had been dealt and deliver a blueprint that returns the power and authority to them?

Mr. Trump did not end programs. He ended federal funding for some programs. States and local authorities can continue programs they deem worthy. They just won’t get the federal money.

That smart move alone will force state and local leaders to do what state and local had been doing long before there ever was a Cabinet-level Department of Education.

So cast aside the union leader’s opinion. Facts speak louder than hyperbole.

1) Mr. Trump’s proposal does not whack the Department of Education’s roughly $68 billion budget. It does, however, scrap federal funding of some programs, trim funding for some and bolster funding for others.

For example, teacher-quality federal spending, along with its federal red tape, could be out. A $2.4 billion program, the grants program touching on everything from teacher prep programs to hiring, recruiting and training high-quality teachers.

Should a rural school district in Wyoming have to move in lockstep with a highly urban one like New York City regarding its teaching corps? No. What’s good for the NYC goose could prove to be an oil slick.

2) All jurisdictions face a possible loss of so-called impact aid money, the $66 million federal pot of money used to offset tax revenues that some communities face because they are home to federal property. This is a tricky one, as the federal government occupies nooks and crannies everywhere. Expect push backs from Congress and state capitals.

3) School choice finally gets the federal attention its parents and other supporters deserve. As expected, Mr. Trump wants to bolster education options via the portability factor. Military personnel, college students and people in need of government housing do it all the time. Section 8 vouchers, for example, can first be used in a tony D.C. neighborhood, then follow the recipient if they move to a different neighborhood. And the public money does not have to be used for “public” housing.

The Trump education plan specifically pitches $1.4 billion for school choice, including $18 million for charter schools, a new pot of $250 million for children to enroll in private and religious schools, and funding for disadvantaged students would bump up from $15 billion to $16 million.

Of course, the downside to Mr. Trump entire plan is congressional add-ons, such as the possibility that status-quo seat holders won’t shake lose of progressive’s passive-aggressive habits and that liberal’s tendencies will pile on rewrites and amendments to please their anti-choice advocates who love to preach to the soapbox choir.

To wit, the hyperbole from the teachers union.

Libertarians, by the way, are not waving the pom-poms on the Trump proposal, and that’s understandable.

For some lawmakers, even conservative ones, guidelines should be guideposts which then should become federal mandates — and therein lies the risk of hyperbole becoming reality.

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