In response to the Trump Administration's new budget proposal, which features heavy cuts to education funding, Dorene Rodriguez Hoops, a mother and member of the Indiana Public Schools board, shares what these potential cuts will mean for her children and the children attending public schools in her community. Her op-ed, which urges readers to contact their legislators about opposing the budget, was published in the Indianapolis Star. Read it below.
A Budget that Leaves Us Few Choices
By Dorene Rodriguez Hoops
As a mother and a new school board member, much of my life is focused on making sure students have a chance to thrive at school.
But the new budget proposal put forth by the Trump Administration would mean far fewer educational opportunities for my son and daughter, and the students in Indianapolis Public Schools where I serve. The proposed cuts would not only hurt the kids I am focused on every day, but all the students and families in our state striving to earn a great education.
Under the new proposal released last month, funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be slashed by $9 billion. The Trump Administration believes that those cuts are needed to pay for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, and to build a wall along our border with Mexico, where my mother was born.
The cost of those cuts would hurt or get rid of dozens of programs that support early literacy, teach Algebra and study skills to middle schoolers, and prepare students from low-income backgrounds for college. The budget would eliminate more than $1 billion in 21st Century Learning Centers grants for afterschool programs, and $2.25 billion in Title II funding to recruit and support great teachers.
And while I recognize there are questions about whether Trump’s budget will pass, his proposal sends a strong statement about the priorities for this administration. I have met many families in Indiana as a supporter of Stand for Children Indiana who would feel the harm of these proposed cuts directly.
It is easy to get lost in all the numbers floating around, so it is important to look at what could happen at a local level—with the potential to directly affect thousands of students and educators—If this budget is enacted. These are just two examples:
Last year, the 21st Century Learning Centers program invested $10 million in afterschool programs for Indiana’s children--about 75 percent of whom live outside of Marion County and are economically disadvantaged. The grants supported communities like the Twin Lake School Corporation in White County which is using the funding to hire additional teachers to support students with their homework and offer hands-on STEM learning opportunities. This new budget would eliminate their funding along with afterschool and summer programs for thousands of Hoosier kids across the state, and the parents who depend on them for childcare while at work.
An even larger target in the budget is the Title II program for recruiting and retaining great teachers. For the 2017-18 school year, Indiana’s Department of Education is slated to receive $55.9 million in federal funding for both after school programs and Title II grants to recruit, train, and support our amazing teachers. In 2014, Title II helped support more than 6,500 teachers-in-training alone in Indiana. Zeroing out the program would mean schools with far fewer teachers who have far less training and support to help their students learn and grow..
While it is true that the budget proposes an increase for the Title I program, which is designed to level the playing field for under resourced schools, that increase comes with strings attached that would siphon funding away from schools serving disadvantaged students. Instead, that federal funding would go to schools and districts in wealthier neighborhoods. At the same time, cuts to housing, healthcare, and transportation would leave many of the kids in our poorest neighborhoods without their essential needs met.
IDEA, the program that supports students with disabilities, remains woefully underfunded in this budget with less than half of the amount Congress pledged when it first passed the law. Underfunding IDEA puts our nation’s schools in the impossible position of choosing between meeting the needs of children like my son, who has special needs, and offering a great education to all the students who they serve.
That choice is now an even greater challenge because in March, the Supreme Court raised the bar for the support that schools must offer students with disabilities in a unanimous ruling that their goals for learning must be “appropriately ambitious.”
In Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), where my son attends school and my daughter will attend kindergarten this fall, these cuts would be especially devastating. The IPS community has made big gains in the last year - such as a nearly 5 percentage point increase in our high school graduation rate. But that progress is likely to be erased under this new budget. Without funding to support great teaching, college preparation, and summer learning opportunities, IPS students are likely to move backward.
I know it does not have to be this way. If Congress chooses a different path and increases funding for low-income schools, students with disabilities, and career and technical education, our students will accomplish even more amazing things. Many more of our children, not just in Indiana but also across the nation, would graduate with the job skills needed to propel our economy forwards.
This year, I am serving on the Indianapolis Public Schools board because I believe every student in our city and state deserves the opportunity to learn from committed educators like the ones who inspired my son with cerebral palsy. Unfortunately for all our kids, the Trump Administration’s budget proposal would make offering them a great education all but impossible.
If you believe as I do that every student deserves an opportunity to succeed at school, I encourage you to call or write your representatives in Washington, D.C. and demand that they invest more—not less—in our children’s future.