Wrong Direction: President Trump’s Budget Slashes Youth Programs

President Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) sets forth this administration’s values for supporting low-income children, youth, and families. The budget proposes drastic, damaging cuts to employment, education, and training services that enable low-income youth and young adults to stay in school, improve their skills, and be successful in postsecondary education, the workplace, and life.   

The Department of Labor’s budget shrinks by $2.5 billion—a debilitating 21 percent reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level. The budget substantially cuts grants to states and local areas to provide workforce training to low-income youth and adults through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which passed Congress in 2014 with overwhelming bipartisan support. WIOA provides essential career and training services to low-income adults. It’s one of the primary sources of funding that helps states and local communities support out-of-school youth in accessing job training, reengaging in school, and earning their diplomas as well as partner with employers to provide pathways into the workforce. While the budget proposes that states, localities, and employers take more responsibility for these programs, significant funding reductions will mean less help for low-income workers who are striving to build skills and advance along career pathways to better-paying jobs.

The U.S. Department of Education’s budget makes $9.2 billion in cuts (13 percent over the prior year). Student aid and other education programs for low-income students see the biggest cuts, while school choice programs enjoy dramatic increases—ignoring the systemic issues facing America’s public schools. The budget will:

  • Invest an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs, including $1 billion for Title I, $250 million for a new private school choice program, and $168 million for charter schools. The Title I funding is designed to support increased school choice options for students by encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment. These types of policies will help a select group of students but leave behind the vast majority of poor and low-income students that attend Title I schools. High-poverty schools already struggle with lack of funding, crumbling infrastructure, community safety hazards, and teacher shortages—and this budget will divert needed funding from America’s public schools. Students who participate in voucher programs forfeit important civil rights protections; when coupled with the roll back of ESSA accountability regulations, these cuts represent an unprecedented risk for students of color, low-income students, disabled students, and students who have had contact with the foster care, homeless, and justice systems.
  • Eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. 21CCLC provides critical before-school, after-school, and summer programs for low-income children and youth. This will undermine more than one million children and their parents.  The Trump Administration justifies this cut with claims that the program is not effective; however, there is strong evidence that quality after-school programs help children and youth become more engaged in school, raise their academic performance, and remain safe during non-school hours. 
  • Reduce funding for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) by 10 percent and TRIO by nearly a third. GEAR UP prepares vulnerable youth and low-income, first-generation, and nontraditional students for postsecondary education. TRIO provides services throughout the education pipeline to help students succeed beginning in middle school.

The budget also disinvests in programs that prevent youth from entering the justice system while increasing support for law-and-orderenforcement strategies that have historically targeted communities of color and immigrants. The overall Department of Justice budget is down 3.8 percent from the 2017 annualized CR level. We don’t yet know which discretionary programs will be impacted; however, it’s a good bet that reentry services, the Title II Formula Grants Program and The Title V – Delinquency Prevention Program of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act are on the chopping block. These programs provide funding to support state and local prevention and intervention efforts for court-involved youth and those at risk of justice involvement and juvenile justice system improvements. 

Lastly, the proposed budget eliminates funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This will severely limit states’ and communities’ ability to respond to critical challenges and support low-income youth.  National service is powerful tool for low-income youth and can serve as a pathway out of poverty, increasing access to education, work experience, and civic engagement. CNCS administers the AmeriCorps program, where 80,000 young Americans serve in communities to support natural disaster relief, provide critical education and social services to low-income youth and the elderly, and help local communities solve pressing issues like hunger and poverty. Many local communities use CDBG to support community-based, job training, and workforce development programs for low-income youth.

The president’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal.  It is not expected to be enacted. However, it does reveal the Administration’s expectations for funding levels and priorities. It’s now up to Congress to make the right choices through its appropriations process and invest in low-income youth and their families.