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California's Superintendent of Public Instruction Vows to Fight Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts to Education

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan for the Department of Education “goes in the wrong direction” and would hurt disadvantaged children, according to a statement from the California State Board of Education.

Now, the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction is vowing to take the fight to the nation's capitol.

The president's 2018 budget proposal aims to eliminate or reduce over 20 categorical programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are better served by State, local or private funds.

One of the programs the proposed budget would eliminate is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, which provides before and after-school programs.

Tom Torlakson said funding cuts to after school programs, teacher training, and other programs would ultimately hurt disadvantaged students.

For California, it would mean up to $132 million in cuts to after-school programs that provide academic support, fitness and nutrition, among others, for students. 

“These devastating cuts shortchange our schools. By failing to invest in our students, we fail our society, our economy, and our nation,” Torlakson said.

He said that programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program help prepare California students for competitive jobs. It provides places to help students, particularly those who attend high-poverty or low-performing schools, meet academic standards in core subjects.

It also offers literacy and other educational services, as well as enrichment activities, according to the U.S. Department of Education program website.

Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program would result in a savings of $1.2 billion, according to the White House budget statement. The White House justified the budget cut by citing a lack of evidence in improving student achievement.

According to the California Department of Education (CDE), there are more than 4,500 before and after school programs that serve approximately 825,000 students in California--the largest in the nation.

“This proposal takes us backward, jeopardizing California’s progress in improving our schools and preparing students for college and the 21st century economy,” Torlakson said.

CDE said Trump's proposal would set aside $250 million for a school voucher program--which would give public money to private schools.

The White House education budget statement said it will focus on giving parents more mobility to choose what schools their children attend by investing $1.4 billion in school choice programs.

“Voucher programs take taxpayer dollars away from public schools, starving them of the resources they need to provide a first-class education to students who remain in public schools,” Torlakson said. “Californians have said loudly and clearly that they do not want vouchers.”

According to the CDE, the budget proposal also reduces assistance to low-income college students, for instance with the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (FSEOG), which would be eliminated.

However, the White House said the FSEOG is a less effective version of the Pell Grant, and will save $732 million.

The Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program would be another one to be thrown out. It provides funds for educator evaluation systems, allows feedback and support to teachers and school leaders as well as help retain the best teachers and leaders in high-need schools.

According to the White House, the program is poorly targeted and spread too thin across thousands of districts to show enough evidence of impact. Eliminating it would save $2.4 billion in federal funds.

Torlakson said he plans to press Congress to reject Trump's education proposals when he visits Washington, D.C. next week.

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