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A budget indefensible: Columbia-Greene schools could lose on Trump budget

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    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 6, 2017.
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    Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier (left) and Board President Carrie Otty (center). Suttmeier said that Title IV funding, which President Donald Trump proposed cutting in 2018, is an important money source to keep the districts afterschool program running.
June 13, 2017 12:57 pm

President Donald Trump is proposing billion-dollar cuts to education and several cuts to key programs that help school districts in Columbia and Greene counties, but representatives in Washington say his proposal will not pass as is.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sat before the Senate’s subcommittee on education appropriations Tuesday defending the president’s budget, which would overall cut federal education funding by $9.2 billion.

Backed in a corner by both Republican and Democratic members, DeVos defended cuts to Title I funding for low-income districts and after school programs.

“I think it is likely the kind of cuts you [DeVos] propose in this budget will not occur,” said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “This is a difficult budget to defend.”

Trump’s budget proposes $15.9 billion for Title I funding, which DeVos called a $1 billion increase based on the funding provided before Congress passed its appropriations bill in April, which kept the government from shutting down until the end of fiscal year 2017.

“The intention is to fully fund Title I,” DeVos told senators on Tuesday.

Title I is a grant program for schools with high percentages of students from low-income homes.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., disagreed with DeVos’ classification of the proposed funding for Title I as an increase, saying that if the numbers are based on the appropriations bill, Trump’s proposal is actually a $578 million decrease.

U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, said all budget numbers should be based on the previous full-year funding but agreed with lawmakers at the hearing.

“Historically, the president proposes cuts to domestic spending but what [Trump] proposes goes beyond what is wise,” Faso said. “Most of what the president proposes to cut will not pass.”

Included in those proposals he said would not pass are the too-low funding for Title I.

In the 2016-2017 fiscal year several Columbia and Greene County school districts were allocated or still had allocations from the Title I program: Hudson City School District was allocated $605,032; Taconic Hills Central School District was allocated $404,246; Chatham Central School District was allocated $161,565; New Lebanon Central School District was allocated $94,408; Northeast Central School District was allocated $118,747; Catskill Central School District was allocated $361,553; Coxsackie-Athens Central School District was allocated $193,250; Cairo-Durham Central School District was allocated $579,898; Hunter-Tannersville Central School District was allocated $112,974; Windham-Ashland Central School District was allocated $54,258; Greenville Central School District was allocated $198,136.

“We are the only small city school district in the Columbia-Greene area,” Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier said.

Suttmeier said her district serves a student population that is 70 percent impoverished and that Title I funding is important to keep the schools functioning.

“Most schools can use that funding solely on programming such as adding teachers and reading specialists. We do not have that luxury,” the superintendent said. “We use the funding to pay teachers’ salaries, helping our general budget. If we don’t receive that funding we will have to support our general budget in other ways. It would be tough.”

Suttmeier said she is also concerned about proposed cuts to the Title IV funding — a $1,1 billion reduction — which the district uses to run its after-school program.

“We have had the 21st Century Community Learning Center program for more than 15 years and in that time it has grown exponentially,” the superintendent said.

She said the program is a well rounded one offering academic, athletic and other activities based on interest.

“We have a population of families that work late into the afternoon. And with 70 percent of our students living in poverty they depand on the afterschool program,” Suttmeier said.

The district’s afterschool program is funded for a five-year block.

“For the 2017-2018 school year we are set, but we do not know if the commitment will exist later down the road,” Suttmeier said.

Faso said cuts to Title IV funding will not happen.

“I like that Trump wants to balance the budget in 10 years. That is fiscally responsible,” Faso said. “But he is focusing his cuts on only 17 percent of the budget and that’s really what the issue is.”

Frankly speaking, I don’t know why Donald Trump is doing that. Why there is such a little attention to the problems connected with the education funding? Moreover, why all the time he tries to cut the education budget and cut important key programs? I think that the President must invest more money in education and especially, help those parents who can’t send their kids to school and use tools like <a href="">Find Lender</a> to make ends meet. Betsey de Vos also doesn’t do much to make the education more affordable for needy families.