Over the last three fiscal years and three budget proposals, President Donald Trump has proposed cuts to public education spending to Congress. These proposals have, over the last two years and as a trend across the last decade, been ill-received by Congress, and there have been counter-proposals made to increase education funding instead.
The House committees of Education and Workforce are now Democrat-controlled and they requested that Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos, testify in favor of the 2020 budget proposals. From that point, difficulty has ensued in the House.
According to “Education Week,” DeVos offered very little commentary on the contents of the budget outline, but said that it, “focuses on freedom for teachers, freedom for parents [and] freedom for all students.”
The primary point of concern for many, however, came when DeVos defended President Trump’s proposal to completely eliminate funding for Special Olympics programs in public schools. After several days, President Trump responded to backlash by reversing his statement on the program’s funding, saying that it would be supported in the future.
Although DeVos initially supported the budget proposal, including the Special Olympics funding cuts, she eventually made a statement that Special Olympics funding is something she has, “fought for behind-the-scenes over the last several years.” This appeared to be out of character for DeVos, who has historically gone to great lengths to publicly defend President Trump’s policies, yet retaliated after he stated that he had “overridden [his] people” in the Special Olympics decision.
Commentary arose regarding Trump’s alleged dislike of DeVos, but West Wing officials declined to confirm the suspicions. While many speculated that tension would arise between DeVos and Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a comment saying that “President Donald J. Trump considers Secretary DeVos a personal friend and appreciates and respects the incredible job she is doing for students across the country…”
Democrat Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, whose pointed questions for DeVos following the release of the budget proposal sparked a great deal of media outcry against President Trump’s recommendations, commented on the issue.
“I’m extremely glad that the American people have convinced President Trump to do the right thing with Special Olympics,” said Pocan. “However, it shouldn’t take public outcry and shaming to restore funding to one of our nation’s most important special education programs.”
The conference addressing the budget proposal also brought attention to other issues within the public education system, including the racial disparity in the discipline of students in public schools, the Trump administration’s effort to eliminate protections for transgender students to use the restroom of their choosing, the large failure rate of charter schools to comply with federal anti-discrimination mandates, and whether or not private schools that benefit from federal funding should have to align with policies preventing discrimination against LGBTQ+ students.
While these concerns were addressed, some representatives are still concerned about DeVos’ commitment to protecting students.
Committee chair Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, commented that the budget is “cruel,” adding, “in my view, it is reckless.”
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