House panel cuts education budget, but not nearly as much as Trump

CtMirror.org

A school bus drops off students at a school in the south end of Hartford.

Washington – House appropriators rejected many of President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to education, but trimmed some programs and eliminated others – including one that provides the state and local school districts with $25 million in teacher training grants each year.

House appropriators also failed to adjust this year’s Pell grant awards for inflation, a move state officials say will cost Connecticut students $6 million in college financial aid next year.

Trump proposed cutting the budget for the U.S. Department of Education by about $10 billion in fiscal year 2018.

But the House Appropriations Committee, in a bill that would also fund the Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, cut the education department’s budget overall by about $2.4 billion, with $2.1 billion of that coming from teacher assistance grants that provide Connecticut with about $25 million a year.

Studying in the Bridgeport High School library.

The House bill won’t be the final say on federal education funding, but it does signal that members of Congress, including its Republican leaders, have little enthusiasm for cutting money for schools too deeply. The Senate has not finished work on it’s education appropriation bill, but traditionally it’s been more generous than the House’s.

The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee, which could be amended when it’s considered on the floor, would slightly increase funding for special-needs students while making small cuts to Title I grants for low-income students and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that funds after-school programs.

That could hurt Connecticut, which benefits from federal after-school programs and 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, which run between $25,000 and $200,000 a year and help pay for programs in Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury and other communities in the state.  (See here for which communities.)

But the damage is much less than what was proposed by the Trump budget – which completely eliminated those programs.

Still, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called the bill “fundamentally anti-teacher.”

“It eliminates more than $2 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction grants – or teacher training – which helps reduce class sizes and give teachers evidence-based professional development,” DeLauro said.

Connecticut and local school districts receive about $25 million a year through the grants. Bridgeport, one of the state’s lowest-performing districts, has received $2 million so far this fiscal year from this program. Hartford has received $2.9 million.

Lawmakers completely rejected Trump’s student loan proposals.

The president’s budget would eliminate subsidized Stafford student loans, which give students a repayment grace period. Under the program, the federal government pays the interest on these loans while students are in school and for six months after graduation.

Last year, students attending college in Connecticut received $203 million in subsidized Stafford loans.

The CT Mirror

Students on campus at Norwalk Community College

House appropriators decided to keep the program intact and also kept the Perkins loan program alive, which was on the chopping block in Trump’s budget.

Perkins loans are low-interest federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial needs.

Trump also wanted to end a student loan forgiveness program, which was designed to clear student debt for those who work for 10 years in teaching, community policing or other professions deemed to be in the public interest. The House bill keeps this program fully funded.

But House appropriators failed to adjust next year’s Pell Grant awards for inflation.

Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, called this “the most painful proposal” put forth by the White House and the congressional appropriators.

He said it would prevent Connecticut students from receiving an estimated $165 increase to their 2018-2019 maximum Pell Grant awards.

“For CSCU students, this will represent an estimated loss of $6 million annually,” Ojakian wrote. “This is particularly disturbing for our community colleges, where 34 percent of the student body, or 25,065 students — received a federal Pell Grant in 2015-2016.”

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