Yesterday, the Trump Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, dismissing the needs of children and youth with exceptionalities, particularly those with disabilities and gifts and talents. The Council for Exceptional Children is disheartened to see that this Administration has made deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Education funding, level funded the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, slashed Medicaid funds, eliminated funding for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program – the only federal investment in students with gifts and talents, and created a new private school voucher program that takes scarce taxpayer funding away from public schools and jeopardizes the civil right of a free appropriate public education for children and youth with disabilities.
The President released the first full budget request outlining his priorities for FY 2018 and the subsequent decade. The Administration requested $59 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education in FY 2018, a $9 billion, or 13 percent reduction, below the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level. The request includes $1.4 billion to support new investments in public charter schools and private school voucher programs.
CEC is disconcerted that no additional investments were included in the President’s budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Coupled with an $800 billion decrease for Medicaid, CEC is concerned that the budget falls short in meeting the expanding population and needs of children with disabilities.
CEC opposes the elimination of funding for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, the only dedicated federal investment for students with gifts and talents, particularly those from under served backgrounds. There is a clear national need to develop the talent of the more than 3 million high-ability learners in the United States, whose performance is falling behind that of students in other industrialized nations. It is well documented that students with gifts and talents have learning needs requiring specialized educational services if they are to reach their potential.
CEC opposes any policy or funding scheme that would create private school vouchers, including tuition tax credits, education saving accounts or scholarships, as they are contrary to the best interest of children and youth with disabilities, their families, the public school system, local communities and taxpayers. Vouchers both contradict and undermine central purposes of civil rights laws designed to protect children and youth with disabilities. Vouchers underserve many students with disabilities who often cannot find private schools to accept them or provide a free appropriate public education.
CEC calls on Congress to reject the Administration’s budget proposal, repeal the sequestration caps, and increase appropriations for key education and health programs in order to maximize opportunities for children and youth with exceptionalities. CEC supports a FY 2018 budget increase because without adequate funding some of the impactful effects in education will be: hindering efforts to close troubling achievement gaps, raising overall student achievement, and increasing high school graduation, college access, and college completion rates; as well as leaving far too many vulnerable children without access to high quality education. Education is the great equalizer in our nation.
CEC’s work is not over – we need to maintain the momentum as we advocate for needed investments in special and gifted education, early intervention and research programs for the FY 2018 budget.
Visit CEC’s Legislative Action Center to tell your members of Congress to invest in programs for children with exceptionalities and support public education and oppose private school vouchers.