Trump's proposed budget cuts alarm Pa. educators

Junior Gonzalez
  • York City School District among the top 25 schools most at risk of "considerable losses" from cuts.
  • Federal funding for teacher staffing and retention would be completely eliminated under Trump budget.
  • Federal budget calls for a a $9 billion reduction in funding to the Department of Education.

Teacher training, after-school programs and federal college grants programs might be eliminated under the President Trump's recently announced budget plan.

The proposal calls for a 13 percent reduction in funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the elimination of several programs, including a teacher staffing and retention program, the 21st Century after-school program and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides tuition assistance to college students with severe financial need.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera called the cuts “devastating.”

Flanked by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, left, and state Sen.-elect Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, right, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera visits Dover Area High School, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

In a letter sent to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week, Rivera said he and the rest of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration are “steadfast in ... opposition” to education cuts under the proposed federal budget.

Rivera stated in the letter that the state Education Department recently conducted a preliminary analysis of how the cuts would impact schools and students in the commonwealth and has offered to provide DeVos the results.

"As a former principal and superintendent and now as the secretary of education for Pennsylvania, I know all too well how these proposed cuts would undermine our most vulnerable students and communities," Rivera stated in the letter.

Several of the cuts the department found troubling included the elimination of Title II Part A funding, otherwise known as the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant program. The program funds many state staffing, development and retention programs, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman. The state would lose about $86 million in federal funds if the program is cut, according to Reigelman.

York City officials: Trump budget cuts will hurt

Large school districts such as Philadelphia are at risk of losing as much as $17 million in funding, and, according to Reigelman, the York City School District will suffer “considerable losses” in Title II funding under the proposal.

Local reaction: “When you’re a district such as York City that depends so heavily on federal funds, the cuts may be very concerning,” said Carol Saylor, the state-appointed recovery officer for the York City School District. The district is among the top 25 school districts in the state that would be most impacted by funding losses, according to Reigelman.

The Migrant Education Program under Title I funding also would be affected, according to Reigelman. She said local libraries, which receive considerable federal and state assistance, also would be negatively affected under the new budget.

York City School District’s Chief Recovery Officer Carol Saylor. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"Certainly any loss of funding would be a hardship for us," York Suburban Superintendent Shelly Merkle said.

In reference to the Migrant Education Program, she said there is a "significant portion" of international students at York Suburban, and the growing enrollment of students who speak English as a second language is occurring across the state. "The loss of any funding to schools in the state would put the state in a position to shift funds and leave other programs with less money," Merkle added.

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“Under [former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom] Corbett, schools had reductions in funding, class sizes and extracurricular activities,” Reigelman said. She said Gov. Wolf has offered “steadfast support of local schools and universities” and will fight to increase education funding in the state, which she notes has increased in the governor’s first two budgets.

There also are cuts to higher education, including a grant for those with high financial need. The blueprint calls for a reduction of federal Pell Grant funding, as well as the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which is only granted on a case-by-case basis for students with extreme financial need.

The Trump budget also proposes to cut the federal work-study program "significantly," according to the blueprint, but does not outline by how much.

"These proposals would negatively impact the ability of current and future low-income students to pursue and complete a college degree in a timely manner, if at all," Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement.

According to the statement, 26 percent of Penn State students receive Pell Grants, and Barron said the proposed cuts would "significantly" reduce the size and effectiveness of the university's work-study program.

"Any reduction in aid funding will have a negative effect on students and possibly on their enrollment," said Calvin Williams, director of financial aid at York College, in a statement to The York Dispatch.

"FSEOG is to be awarded to the neediest students, therefore, the elimination of the program will hurt those who need assistance most," Williams added.

The budget blueprint, titled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," is in its introductory phase and will likely undergo amendments and changes during its congressional review.