Removing funds from many good programs for public schools to fund private school vouchers

It’s 2017, and a mystery chief executive just released a proposal for government spending in his fiscal year 2018 budget. He chose to cut funding for an after-school and summer program targeted at low-income public school students and a grant program aimed at reducing teacher turnover. Instead, his budget redirects that funding to private school vouchers.

Who is it?

If you guessed President Trump, you’re right.

And if you guessed Gov. Larry Hogan, you’re also right.

Trump and Hogan Want to Fund (and Cut) The Same Education Programs

InJanuary, we wrote about how Gov. Hogan’s budget contradicted his talking point that private school vouchers don’t take money away from public schools (he even said “if anything it provides for more public school funding”).

To recap, Gov. Hogan’s budget cut more than $20 million in funding from the following programs:

  1. Public Schools Opportunities: $7.5 million for after-school and summer programs
  2. Next Generation Scholars: $5 million for college readiness scholarships
  3. Teacher Induction and Retention: $8 million to reduce teacher turnover

It also included $7 million for BOOST, the governor’s failed voucher programthat has done little more than subsidize expensive private school tuition.

The governor is legally required to introduce a balanced budget. That means it’s a zero-sum document; Hogan chose to cut those public school programs in order to fund private school vouchers.

Well, it looks like the White House found a little inspiration in Gov. Hogan’s private school prioritization. Because last week, President Trump proposed a budget that cut funding from the exact same public school programs while increasing spending on vouchers.

Here’s Education Week’s reporting:

“The proposal would completely scrap two big programs: Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, or Title II, which is currently funded at $2.25 billion and helps states and districts hire and provide professional development for teachers. The budget proposal would also get rid of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which is funded at more than $1 billion currently and finances after-school and extended-learning programs.
“Trump is also proposing a new $250 million private school choice initiative that could provide vouchers for use at private schools, including religious schools.”

 

“The priorities Donald Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students and deprive millions of opportunities.” — NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

A Potential Double Whammy for Maryland Students

Ifenacted, Trump’s budget would cut $48.3 million from Maryland public schools. Combined with Hogan’s cuts to public schools in his budget, that would take away roughly $68 million — coincidentally the same amount of school funding cut by the governor in 2015.

This would slow achievement and limit opportunity for thousands of kids in Maryland. According to the Maryland Out of School Time Network, 243,000 children are at risk of hunger in Maryland and 270,873 school-age students are unsupervised for an average of 10 hours per week. Our kids rely on after-school programs like the ones cut by Trump and Hogan for a meal after school and a place to continue their education. And these programs show real results: the most recent program analysis of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program demonstrated participant gains in homework completion, attendance, and math and English grades.

Of course she did.

Maryland also has a major teacher turnover problem — which makes cutting funding for teacher retention programs a bad idea. According to Maryland State Department of Education data, more than half of new teachers leave the profession in their first three years. Teachers need experience to learn how to adjust classroom management and lesson plans to improve their own instruction — and the more inexperienced teachers are, the harder it is for students to make gains.

Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor and leading researcher on teacher turnover, estimates that turnover costs school districts in Maryland somewhere between $20 and $45 million per year. So those cuts to teacher retention programs by Trump and Hogan have a compounding effect.

Meanwhile, more and more evidence is showing that vouchers don’t boost student achievement. Here’s the latest takeaway from Stanford University Professor Martin Carnoy, who examined research over the past 25 years, including studies of programs in Milwaukee, New York City, Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana:

“The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs.
“Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.”

Hogan may not have voted for Trump, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether they share the same policy priorities. On some issues, like health care and refugees, Hogan has been silent when Trump’s actions clearly harm Maryland families. But the governor goes one step further on education — he’s actively pursuing the exact same agenda.