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US Congress Reviews Plan to Cut Education Budget


President Donald Trump looks at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as he speaks during a meeting with parents and teachers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in February. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump’s first budget proposes a 13 percent cut in federal spending on education.

But like most budget proposals, the United States Congress is sure to make changes.

Tom Cole of Oklahoma is a member of the House of Representatives. He heads the House subcommittee that oversees federal spending on education.

Congressman Tom Cole.
Congressman Tom Cole.

Cole belongs to the Republican Party, just like Trump. But at a hearing on Wednesday, he told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that some of the proposed cuts are “short-sighted,” meaning not well thought out.

Cole noted proposals to cut programs that provide part-time jobs for college students and help students from poor families attend college.

Frankly, I will advise you, I have a different point of view,” Cole told DeVos.

Thinking of taxpayers

Mick Mulvaney is director of the Office of Management and Budget. He said that Trump’s budget does what many earlier budget proposals did not -- consider the needs of Americans who pay for federal programs through taxes.

“This is I think the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” Mulvaney said.

Some proposed cuts hit international programs

The State Department oversees American education programs worldwide.

The Trump budget proposes $148.6 million for international academic programs, down 52 percent from 2017. The largest one, the Fulbright Program, would be cut by 47 percent -- from $235.6 million in 2017 to $125.6 million.

The Fulbright program offers federal money so Americans can study, teach and do research outside the United States. It also provides funding for international students and scholars at American colleges and research groups. The program was started in 1946, after World War II, and named for Senator, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

Among the federal programs proposed for elimination is the international food for education program. It provides food to students in poor countries. In its budget proposal, the Trump administration said the program has not been shown to be effective.

English Language programs, which provide English teaching and teaching materials worldwide, would receive $10 million, down 75 percent from 2017.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the budget proposal for international education puts a priority on “proven successful programs, such as Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership.” The budget proposals are part of President Trump’s plan to put “America First,” in terms of spending decisions, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The visitor program brings current and future leaders from around the world to the U.S. to experience American culture, education and business first-hand. The Trump budget provides $49.3 million for the program, down about 45 percent from the current budget.

The budget also calls for big cuts in scientific research at the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health. Much of the federally funded research is done by universities across the country.

Mary Sue Coleman is president of the Association of American Universities.

Coleman said that federally funded research by American colleges helped develop important medicines, created the internet, put a man on the moon and produced smart phones. She said cuts in research funding would badly damage the programs that produced “all those things.”

Education Secretary DeVos said the cuts in education spending are designed, in part, to fund a program Trump proposed during the 2016 election campaign – “school choice.” It would give poor families the ability to choose the school their children attend -- whether public or private.

DeVos said school choice would help low-income parents find a better school for their children when the local public school is not providing a good education. But opponents said school choice takes money away from public schools, which, unlike private schools, must accept all students, including those with learning problems.

Derrell Bradford is the executive vice president of 50CAN, which supports school choice. He praises Trump for his school choice proposal, but opposes the proposed education spending cuts.

“But people should know that this is a political document, the start of what will be a long process,” Bradford told VOA. “The majority of the cuts will not survive Congress.”

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

frankly - adv. speaking in an honest and direct way

view - n. opinion

actually - adv. used to refer to what is true or real

scholar - n. a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it

elimination - n. to remove something

priority - n. something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first

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