Trump’s 2021 Budget Proposal and Education

Anna Hutchinson and David DeSchryver

On Monday, the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget, “A Budget for America’s Future.” The document outlines the President’s spending priorities for the upcoming budget cycle, which includes an 8% cut for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from FY 2020. 

Do not expect Congress to embrace the ask. As the D.C. adage goes: the President proposes, Congress disposes. For example, in his proposed 2020 budget the president suggested a $10 billion cut to the ED budget. Congress delivered a $1.3 billion increase for the agency. The president’s 2020 budget called for a reduction in funding for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program for higher education. Congress bumped it up by $50 million to $1.2 billion. Congress will consider the president’s request, but do as it pleases. 

For the FY 2021 cycle, the president is asking Congress to consolidate 29 formula and competitive accounts into a new $19.4 billion Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant. Almost everything in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gets rolled into the block grant, from Title I to the new Title IV block grant. The administration would spare the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) from the block grant treatment. There is even an additional $900 million for Perkins. 

School choice has always been an important theme of the administration, and this budget offers a $5 billion annual tax credit scholarship, currently known in Congress as the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act. The program would allot federal tax credits for donations going to organizations that award scholarships for students to attend a private school, but the proposal doesn’t have momentum in Congress. 

For higher education, the President calls for the expansion of Pell Grant short-term program eligibility, an increase of $137.4 million for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, an increase of $44 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and an increase of $87.4 million for Minority Serving Institutions authorized by Title III of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The proposed budget calls for the elimination of subsidized federal student loans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, both proposals which will likely be met by degrees of bipartisan resistance in Congress 

What’s likely to happen to the proposal? It’s an election year, so members of Congress are not going to be on board with cuts and consolidations. Look to the prior year budget for the most likely outcome for the FY 2021 federal investments.