Commentary: Stand Up for Education Funding

The education budget released by the White House this week would have devastating consequences for public schools and millions of students nationwide. Standing up for these students by advocating for federal funding must be a critical focus for participants in AACTE’s Washington Week in June.

The president wants to cut $9.2 billion of funding for federal education initiatives such as college work-study programs and public-service loan forgiveness. Overall, his budget would cut, gut, or eliminate nearly two dozen programs, including after-school initiatives that help upwards of 1.6 million students, most of whom attend low-resource schools. In addition, this budget does not provide funding for mental-health services, anti-bullying efforts, physical education, or Advanced Placement courses—not to mention Teacher Quality Partnership grants or other key teacher-quality programs.

These cuts are being proposed in favor of expanding school choice programs. This is a problem. While I support educational options for children, that luxury cannot come at the expense of public-school students. The Trump administration wants to spend $400 million expanding charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, as well as another $1 billion forcing public schools to develop choice-friendly policies.

As teacher educators, we are charged with preparing candidates for their future classrooms, but we must also stand up for their future students. While some charter schools do an excellent job of educating our children, many do not. Charter schools in Ohio, for instance, lack oversight and accountability and, overall, are among the worst in the country. Those issues are not endemic to Ohio, either. There are numerous charters with checkered pasts throughout the Midwest and beyond.

We cannot sit idly by while federal funding is funneled away from public schools and toward private ones. Our public schools, especially those in underserved areas, need all of the support that they can get. We cannot rob students of resources in a misguided effort to privatize education.

I urge you to join me in speaking out against this budget proposal. AACTE’s Washington Week, which will be held June 4-7 in our nation’s capital, is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Every college that can be represented there should be. In the meantime, write letters, send e-mails, and call your legislators to advocate on behalf of our nation’s students and public education system.

Higher education must defend public schools and remind people that public education is for everyone. It safeguards our democratic principles of good citizenship, free speech, equality, critical thinking, working collaboratively with others, and building strong communities. Trump’s budget plan pushes us toward an educational crossroads, but it also represents an opportunity to reestablish and reclaim our professional identity.

In the end, we are all in this together, and we all have an obligation and responsibility to stand up for what we believe is right.

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Renée A. Middleton

Ohio University