The president released a 2019 “skinny budget” this week that is very reminiscent of last year’s. It includes drastic cuts to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), eliminates 21st Century Learning Communities and Preschool Development Grants, and calls for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Most confusing about this budget proposal is that it does not include the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2018, and instead has an addendum that includes some add-backs and shifting of funds for the fiscal year (FY 2019) request. The budget request also uses levels from the current FY 2018 continuing resolution, creating a stark difference in what Congress has set as topline spending for 2019. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explained that we do not necessarily need to spend all of what has been allotted. Mulvaney also acknowledged that the budget is first and foremost a messaging document. However, the document does serve to signal the administration’s priorities.
The addendum to the president’s budget proposes moving the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) from mandatory to discretionary funding. This would make the program more vulnerable to funding cuts, since it would be required to go through the appropriations process and states would have less stability in budgeting for the program. Additionally, the addendum would shift an additional $277 million in the Payments to States for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) account from mandatory funding, as proposed in the FY 2019 budget, to discretionary funding. Further, it would provide an additional $169 million in discretionary funding for this account, for a total funding level of $3.006 billion, which is $150 million more than FY 2017 enacted level, but significantly less than the congressional budget deal signed by President Trump last week.
The Trump budget also signals the administration’s lack of priority in improving public education. Along with a large cut to ESSA, it completely eliminates funding for Title II, Part A, the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program. ESSA’s Title II, Part A and HEA’s Title II provide an opportunity for states and their partner institutions and organizations to develop and implement evidence-based policies to improve teacher and leader recruitment, preparation, support, development, retention, and effectiveness, which are prerequisites for school improvement and predictors of student achievement. Without these investments, it is highly unlikely that the other ambitious goals of ESSA can be achieved.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was also pegged with a proposed drastic cut of more than $260 billion over 10 years, or around 40 percent of the program. Half of the remaining funds are to be spent on providing recipients with government-purchased non-perishable food boxes in lieu of food that households would purchase at the grocery store. This would upend SNAP’s successful and efficient public-private partnership with some 260,000 retail stores and would be a significant cost shift to states and nonprofit food distributors. With 2018 being the year to renew the agricultural bill, otherwise known as the “farm bill,” significant structural and funding changes to SNAP, which is within the farm bill could very well take place.
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