Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Justified

Since 1965, federal taxpayers have poured an estimated $2 trillion into education programs associated with President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

But despite this staggering expenditure – which represents just a fraction of combined federal, state and local K-12 spending – education attainment gaps between upper-income students and their less-affluent peers remain as wide as ever.

For example, new research shows that toward the beginning of the War on Poverty, 14-year-old students from the poorest families were three to four years behind those from more affluent families. But unfortunately, researchers concluded that current efforts rooted in federal programs and spending have not reduced this socioeconomic gap in education achievement.

The study was conducted by Paul Peterson of Harvard University, Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich, and Eric Hanushek and Laura Talpey of Stanford University.

After $2 trillion and nothing to show for it, one starts to question the wisdom of throwing good money after bad.

Enter the federal budget proposed by President Trump in March. It would cut the Department of Education’s budget by $7.1 billion – a 10% reduction from 2019 spending.

President Trump has consistently tried to trim the department’s budget. He sought a 13.5% cut for the 2018 fiscal year and a 5% cut for the 2019 fiscal year. Each time, Congress rejected the request and instead increased education spending.

Trump’s most recent proposal would eliminate 29 federal education programs. That’s a good start. It would also cut $2.1 billion from teacher development programs and eliminate the $1.1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.

Teacher development is rightly a state and local responsibility, not a federal one. Moreover, evidence suggests that there is little return on investment from the teacher professional development programs funded by the feds.

As for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, there is no evidence that this program – started a quarter of a century ago – has improved learning among its participants. In fact, a scientifically rigorous evaluation of the program found just two statistically significant academic impacts – and both were negative. The program has had no impact on improving students’ math, English, or science achievement.

[Read More]