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Yay! No more Government Schools! (photo by Austin Hodges)

And the Parade of Terrible from the Trump administration continues lurching forward: The Washington Post has seen a draft budget proposal for the Department of Education, and it reflects Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s agenda of emphasizing “school choice” — especially for parents who choose anything that’s not a public school. It’s all about empowerment, don’t you know, at least for parents who’d like their kids to go to a church school where they won’t have to learn about demonic stuff like evolution. Let’s cut $10.6 billion from public schools and give it to anyone who wants to make a buck running whatever they want to call a “school”:

The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.

The funding cuts are awful in themselves, but since most school funding is local, that’s less of a concern than the overall direction the Trump administration wants to push education policy: They want states to abandon public education in favor of a patchwork of private, charter, homeschools, and badly underfunded public schools that’ll have to take all the kids the others won’t. You know, to enhance choice and competition and stuff, because schools should be run like shoe stores and the ones that can’t keep up should lose. It’s a market, baby. Or as DeVos insists, it’s time to get Washington — which is barely involved in public education — out of public education, except insofar as it can nudge states to also get out of public education.

“It’s time for us to break out of the confines of the federal government’s arcane approach to education,” DeVos said this month in Salt Lake City. “Washington has been in the driver’s seat for over 50 years with very little to show for its efforts.”

So let’s all take a deep breath, be glad we mostly went to at least adequate public schools, and get ready to watch the wreckage. It’ll be beautiful, believe them. What’s in this abomination anyway?

For starters, how about an overall cut of $9.2 billion for the Education Department — about 13.6 percent of the level last month’s concurrent resolution approved. Funding for special education and Title 1 funds — aimed at helping poor kids — would remain unchanged, but there’s a catch:

However, high-poverty schools are likely to receive fewer dollars than in the past because of a new law that allows states to use up to 7 percent of Title I money for school improvement before distributing it to districts.

That should encourage the lazy takers to work harder, shouldn’t it? And then there’s the stuff we clearly don’t need anymore, because it’s just a waste of taxpayer dollars:

The cuts would come from eliminating at least 22 programs, some of which Trump outlined in March. Gone, for example, would be $1.2 billion for after-school programs that serve 1.6 million children, most of whom are poor, and $2.1 billion for teacher training and class-size reduction.

And, as everyone knows, nutrition has nothing to do with learning. Parents want their kids to have food, they can damn well pack a lunch full of love, like the poor families Paul Ryan pretended to know. Oh, but there’s plenty more to be cut so we can funnel more money to for-profit operators of private and charter schools! Other programs to be eliminated altogether include:

a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Feh, who needs ’em?! Bible Bob’s Jesus Academy needs the dough! And then there are the programs that won’t be eliminated, but merely slashed: useless luxuries like career and vocational education, which no one needs because there are no more jobs. Maybe after Trump brings the jobs back, schools can ask private industry for some money to cover that stuff. Adult basic literacy would lose 16% of its funding — $96 million — because who even needed to read anymore? You don’t see the president of the United States wasting his time reading books, or even the parts of his security briefings that don’t have his name in them.

No money at all for dangerous social engineering propaganda like “mental-health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses and science and engineering instruction,” which if they were worth anything would find donors in private industry.

Oh, but look at the beautiful investments in school choice! $500 million for charter schools, and

$250 million on “Education Innovation and Research Grants,” which would pay for expanding and studying the impacts of vouchers for private and religious schools. […]

There is currently only one federally funded voucher program, in the District of Columbia. A recent Education Department analysis of that program found that after a year in private school, voucher recipients performed worse on standardized tests than their counterparts who remained in public school.

Yeah, but merely looking at academic performance misses the point: How many children came to Jesus? Also, how much profit did the private schools make?

Oh, and remember how Betsy DeVos was going to make life so much better for Historically Black Colleges and Universities? “The administration’s budget proposal would hold funding flat compared to spending levels over the first half of fiscal 2017.” Bummer! But at least they had a nice photo-op at the White House.

How about financial aid? Pell Grants would be funded at current levels, but other wasteful spending on Takers would be chopped. The proposal would

eliminate more than $700 million in Perkins loans for disadvantaged students; nearly halve the work-study program that helps students work their way through school, cutting $490 million; take a first step toward ending subsidized loans, for which the government pays interest while the borrower is in school; and end loan forgiveness for public servants.

That “loan forgiveness” program — which went into effect under the Kenyan socialist George W. Bush in 2007 — was meant as an incentive for students to become “social workers, teachers, public defenders or doctors in rural areas,” but that’s really just the federal government picking winners and losers, so it’s gone. There’s a small wrinkle in eliminating the loan forgiveness program:

There are at least 552,931 people on track to receive the benefit, with the first wave of forgiveness set for October. It’s unclear how the proposed elimination would affect those borrowers.

Haha! It will teach those moochers not to be dependent on government, is what it will do. Government always makes things worse, and Trump is dead set on proving it by wrecking anything that seems to be working, just to teach us that hard lesson. Grandfather them in? You think silly things.

There’s only one good thing about this stupid, stupid education budget proposal, which is that it may well be dead on arrival, since schools have a lot of supporters in Congress, even among Republicans. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, doesn’t sound like much of a fan. A spokesperson for Alexander, reached by the Post for comment, simply referred back to Alexander’s statement in response to Trump’s budget outline back in March, which noted that the president is certainly able to suggest a budget, but “under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills.” In addition, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is promising lawsuits if any voucher plan to fund religious schools is included.

Just how bad is the proposal? The freaking American Enterprise Institute says it doesn’t have a chance in Congress.

If the healthcare debate is any model, we’ll eventually end up with a House bill that’ll require states to provide public education, but offer them the chance to apply for waivers so they won’t have to include school buildings, teachers, or books. But don’t worry: There’ll be a tax refund for parents who get their kids on a sports team.

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[WaPo / Americans United / The 74 / Image by Austin Hodges from Streets Dept]

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