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Shift in Federal Ed Priorities Worries Advocates

Advocates say shifting funds to charter and private schools would hurt public education. (Hunter Kahn/Wikimedia Commons)
Advocates say shifting funds to charter and private schools would hurt public education. (Hunter Kahn/Wikimedia Commons)
November 15, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The coming administration in Washington, D. C., may redirect billions of dollars of federal funding to charter and private schools, and that has public education advocates concerned.

Donald Trump's transition leader for education, Gerard Robinson, said under the Trump presidency, federal education priorities will focus on entrepreneurship and private-school options.

According to Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, that would be bad news for the state's public schools.

"It means that our local school districts will see a big cut in federal funding, and in order to make up for this cut, they're going to be forced to raise taxes on the local level or cut programs and services," she explained.

Republicans in Congress have said proposed regulations on the distribution of federal education funding are too restrictive.

Spending priorities are not the only changes on the way. Robinson also indicated that the Trump administration could significantly limit the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. Spicka said that means students who experience discrimination may have no remedy.

"If a school district doesn't enroll any minority students in gifted or AP programs, that would continue," she said. "If a school district suspended students with disabilities or minorities at a higher rate, that would just go unchecked."

On the state level, Republicans have gained additional seats in both the House and Senate, which Spicka said could mean another round of difficult budget negotiations in Harrisburg.

Education Voters is one of 50 organizations that have formed the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. Spicka said their message to state lawmakers is simple.

"We need adequate funding for schools, we need equitable funding for schools, and all of our children need an opportunity to learn," added Spicka.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA