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Trump budget is an attack on the nation’s poor children

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A president’s budget is more than just a blueprint for how he or she will govern, it is a reflection of the administration’s priorities, values, and core beliefs about the federal government’s role in our nation.

In this context, we express deep concern about the priorities for children reflected in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, and call upon Congress to reject it.

First, at a time when educational attainment is increasingly vital to the economic opportunities available to our young people, the Trump budget broadly disinvests in educational opportunity.

It cuts over $9 billion, or more than 13 percent of the education department’s budget to wide-ranging programs including college aid, teacher preparation, and after-school programming.

{mosads}These budget cuts undermine the nation’s fundamental commitment to supporting states and local school districts in improving educational opportunities for children and families.


These cuts are also coupled with a retreat from the important role that the federal government has played in promoting accountability and compliance with civil rights laws. The Trump Administration deems a “states-rights” ideology as more important than confronting actual facts on the ground and developing policies that work best for children.

Similarly, absent robust federal remedies and guardrails coupled with complete deference to local and state interests leaves the nation unable to meaningfully determine whether appropriate support and interventions have been identified or implemented to produce one of our shared educational outcomes — that our students are actually ready to compete and win in a global, 21st century economy.

To be sure, such far-reaching deference to state and local actors has never led to positive outcomes for our most vulnerable children, especially low-income students and students of color.

Amplified by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ lackluster commitment to civil rights, this also means broad deference to local actors, even if local decisions trigger disparate effects concerning race, gender, disability status or sexual orientation on matters of discipline, academic tracking, and special education.

The Trump administration’s budget and policy proposals are problematic enough, but we cannot simply consider its impact within the confines of a narrow scope.

Our students, especially our most vulnerable, are affected by the conditions impacting their families and the communities that surround them.

On this front, the Trump budget seeks to pull the rug out from under students and families. It slashes hundreds of millions of dollars for Medicaid and the children’s health care program, guts food security and job training, and reduces housing subsidies and affordable-housing investments.

The Trump budget does all this, while at the same time pursuing large increases in deportations and expresses a stated desire to accelerate mass incarceration by reversing a gathering bipartisan consensus to reduce — if not eliminate — criminal punishment for nonviolent drug offenses.

In all of these ways, low-income students irrespective of racial background are faced with a set of interlocking federal policies and budget disinvestments that threaten to impede progress for millions of children throughout our country.

These regressive steps are a retreat from our past. Not that long ago, the nation, albeit imperfectly, embraced a bipartisan consensus concerning equity and educational opportunity, and the federal government’s role in securing both.

Democrats and Republicans supported both the passage and implementation of core civil-rights and educational-equity entitlements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

These federal mandates sought to bridge the gap for poor children and bend the arc toward justice.

These federal equity statutes were necessary precisely because states and localities — while certainly engines for innovation and creativity and still reposed with substantial autonomy — could not be granted a rubber stamp concerning the education of historically disadvantaged students and communities.

That is because, for generation after generation, low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities were disproportionately languished in low-quality classrooms and schools.

For that reason, a stronger federal mandate, coupled with specific investments and oversight was required to improve access, deepen opportunity, and foster additional equity.

Presidents and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle — from both presidents George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama; and from senators Ted Kennedy and Judd Gregg to Congressmen George Miller and John Boehner — embraced this consensus.

And over time we saw steady, incremental, even if imperfect, progress.

Trump’s budget, and attendant priorities that drive it, fundamentally rejects and contradicts this bipartisan consensus. It does so in a way that will directly hurt our children at a time at when the global labor market is increasingly unforgiving to adults without higher-level skills and college degrees.

We call upon Congress to act consistent with longstanding bipartisan traditions that have placed our students and their futures above partisan politics or ideological purity, and to reject this budget for the comprehensive assault on our kids’ futures that it represents.

Shavar Jeffries is president of Education Reform Now. Kristen Clarke is president & executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Marc Morial is president & CEO of the National Urban League.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Bill Clinton Boehner Budget Department of Education DOJ Donald Trump Donald Trump Education Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions John Boehner Medicaid Poor Poverty schools

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