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Trump Education Budget Tips Scale Against 'Marginalized Communities'

The Trump administration has proposed cutting more than $9 billion from the federal Department of Education budget. (JJ Thompson/Unsplash)
The Trump administration has proposed cutting more than $9 billion from the federal Department of Education budget. (JJ Thompson/Unsplash)
April 26, 2017

SEATTLE - Teachers and education staff are watching closely this week to see what happens with the Trump administration's proposed cuts to Education Department programs, as Congress works on a budget for next year.

The proposal slashes more than 13 percent, or $9 billion, off the agency's budget. While this might change during negotiations, Karen Strickland, president of the American Federation of Teachers of Washington, said she sees a theme that is emerging from the proposal.

"There are cuts that will have a direct negative impact on more marginalized communities," she said, "whether that be low-income, communities of color, English-language learners - or in higher ed, first-generation college students."

Strickland said cutting funding completely for after-school programs disproportionately hurts working families, for example. She also pointed to programs such as GEAR UP and TRIO, now on the chopping block - although they've been successful at helping low-income students prepare for college. The Trump administration has said the programs have been targeted because they haven't been proven to work.

However, not all programs would see cuts. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has paved the way for private schools, adding $250 million toward a private-school choice program. Strickland said that takes money away from public schools, tipping the scales toward private education - which isn't affordable for most Americans.

"Things like vouchers, they don't usually cover the full cost of going to a private school," she said, "so what that ends up being is financial aid for wealthy people who can fill in the gap."

Despite the proposed cuts being on the table for more than a month, nothing is set in stone. Strickland said the uncertainty is stressful for the educators and staff she represents.

"The other thing is, it takes time to advocate and fight for protecting the budget," she said. "You know, we're not building anything - we're defending against losses, and I think that that's really stressful for folks, too."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA