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'Putting America First' Means Investing in America's Students & Jobseekers

President Trump’s budget proposal, released this morning, paints a bleak picture for America’s students, families, and workers.

Investments in critically important education and workforce development initiatives would be drastically cut and, in many cases, eliminated. The proposal would, if enacted, reduce the budgets of the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor by 13.5 and 19.8 percent, respectively.

While Congress has the final say, the Trump budget stands in stark contrast to his campaign theme of “Make America Great Again” and to the needs of millions of people who depend on these programs for a fair shot at the American Dream.

The Trump Administration’s proposal lays out an unprecedented roadmap to educational and economic disinvestment:
  • After-school programs serving 1.6 million children—eliminates all $1.2 billion.
  • Teacher training programs and class-size reduction efforts—eliminates all $2.34 billion.
  • Every Student Succeed Act’s (ESSA) student support and academic enrichment grants under Title IV, which could be used to support dual enrollment and early college opportunities—eliminates all $400 million.
  • Career Technical Education (CTE), which increases graduation rates and increase academic achievement—reduces current $1.2 billion funding by $320 million.
  • Adult Basic Literacy Programs—reduces current $594 million funding by $94 million.
  • State workforce development grants from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—reduces by $1.3 billion at a time when workforce skills for critical infrastructure projects are sorely needed.
The cuts to education are to fund, at least in part, a proposed school choice program that would divert budget dollars from programs with proven track records to a new initiative that has never been put to the test at this scale.

The budget would also dramatically scale back social service and anti-poverty programs aimed at helping those most in need. Rather than “making America great again,” this budget would further exacerbate the immense levels of educational and economic inequality in this country.

As I wrote here in March, such a move is not sound business practice. If you’re trapped in a hole, why take away the ladders that offer the best opportunities for climbing out of the hole

Funding for afterschool programs, teacher training, class size reduction, career technical education, and job training are pro-growth investments that have a clear return—not just for the people who are helped, but for the nation and economy collectively.

Underscoring the importance of investing in education and workforce development, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that, if the average U.S. student score on the PISA matched the OECD average, the GDP of the U.S. could more than double. An aspirational goal such as this would truly put America first, by lifting up students and workers and empowering them to achieve their dreams.

The cuts identified in this budget are precisely the wrong approach to moving this country's education and workforce forward. They will not only harm public education as a whole but will cause untold hardship on those most vulnerable in our system—students who are traditionally underserved, first-generation college goers, or those pursuing needed technical training in high-growth, high-demand fields.

Congress has time to act this year to ensure these proposed cuts are not made a reality. Lawmakers should build upon the progress they made in their last spending bill to make certain all Americans are able to achieve education and workplace success. There is no higher budget priority than investing in the American Dream.

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