Trump’s Education Budget Proposal Consolidates 29 Federal Grants, Gives States More Autonomy

February 11, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

The Trump administration, under its budget request for 2021, would collapse dozens of federal education grants into a single block grant, giving individual states more control over the way billions of dollars of K-12 education funding is spent.

Overall, President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would cut the U.S. Department of Education’s spending for the fiscal year 2021 by $5.6 billion to $66.6 billion, a 7.8 percent decrease from the previous year.

As part of the cut, the proposal aims to merge all 29 of the Department’s K-12 grant programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act’s Title I and Title II, into one block grant of $19.4 billion, a 4.7 billion less than what Congress approved for 2020. The merger “would empower States and districts to decide how to best use Federal funds to meet the needs of their students,” according to the White House’s budget document, which was released Monday afternoon. While allowing the federal government to limit its involvement in state and local education systems, the change would also “reduce staffing and administrative costs over time.”

If the proposal were to be adopted as is, the $19.4 billion of federal money would be disbursed to states using the current Title I formulas under the Every Student Succeeds Act. States would be able to use their funds to improve public schools, open new charter schools, and expand or replicate existing high-performing schools, among many other options.

“Instead of Washington politicians and bureaucrats forcing local schools to spend limited resources on D.C.’s priorities, this budget proposes putting state and local leaders, teachers, parents, and students themselves in control of education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a press release. “We know states will spend their money differently, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s what we hope they do. They know best how to serve their students.”

Trump’s fiscal 2021 spending plan also includes Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS), which is expected to help more than 1 million children across the country to attend a school of their choice. First championed by DeVos last year, EFS calls for up to $5 billion in federal tax credits to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for contributors of school-choice programs in participating states.

In addition, the budget blueprint would boost financial support for career and technical education (CTE), with a proposed increase of nearly $700 million, bringing the total CTE funding to $2 billion. During his State of the Union address last week, the president highlighted CTE when he called on Congress to back his plan “to offer vocational and technical education in every single high school in America.”