Education Week reports on decisions made by Senate and House committees that preserve programs targeted for deep cuts by the Trump administration and sharp rebuffs to Trump plans to expand school choice. However, the federal appropriation for charter schools was increased by $25 million, which is a big victory for DeVos and a rebuff to the NAACP.


Lawmakers overseeing education spending dealt a big blow to the Trump administration’s K-12 budget asks in a spending bill approved by a bipartisan vote Wednesday.

The legislation would leave intact the main federal programs aimed at teacher training and after-school funding. And it would seek to bar the U.S. Department of Education from moving forward with two school choice initiatives it pitched in its request for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

The bill, which was approved unanimously by the Senate budget subcommittee that oversees health, education and labor spending, would provide $2.05 billion for Title II, the federal program that’s used to hire and train educators. Both the House spending committee and the Trump administration have proposed scrapping the program, so it remains in jeopardy despite the Senate’s support.

The measure rejects another high-profile cut pitched by the Trump administration, $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which helps school districts cover the cost of afters-chool and summer-learning programs. The House also refused to sign off on the Trump administration’s pitch to eliminate the program. Instead, it voted to provide $1 billion for 21st Century, meaning the program would almost certainly see some funding in the 2018-19 school year.

The panel also dealt a blow to the administration’s school choice ambitions. And the bill seeks to stop the Education Department from moving forward on a pair of school choice programs it proposed in its budget request. 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.

A House appropriations panel also rejected the school choice initiatives in a budget bill approved earlier this year. Taken together, that’s a major setback for DeVos’ number one priority.

But the Senate bill does include a $25 million increase for charter school grants, which would bring them to $367 million. That’s not as high as the $167 million boost the administration asked for, or even as high as the $28 million the House is seeking.