By Kendall Evans, Education Policy Analyst, UnidosUS
Being a Latino student in the public school system has always come with challenges, but in recent years, they’ve gone from bad to worse. For example, a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that bullying against Latino students has intensified and increased since President Trump’s tenure began, while supports for English learners (ELs) and resources for schools serving migrant and low-income students have diminished. Trump’s latest proposal for public education makes it clear that this downward cycle will continue.
The latest blow to Latino students came on February 10 when President Trump proposed slashing K-12 funding by $4.7 billion and consolidating 29 programs into a single block grant. Among the 29 programs are Title I and Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which exist to provide financial assistance to schools serving low-income students, migrant students, and ELs. The budget proposal holds that the Title I and III funds, which work to ensure that said students are meeting academic standards, should be used according to each state’s discretion.
However, by putting these funds in a block grant, there are no assurances that states will fund the programs needed to ensure the success of Latino students. UnidosUS and other civil rights organizations recognize that if enacted, this proposal will inflict damage to Latino students and leave them largely unsupported. Instead of attempting to improve educational outcomes some of the United States’ most vulnerable students, President Trump’s budget would only further exacerbate these inequities.
While the budget proposal would do a disservice to most students attending public schools, the proposal to consolidate Title I and Title III funding specifically affects Latino students: According to 2016-17 National KIDS Count data, there are almost nine million Latino students in Title I schools, or schools recognized as having large percentages of students from low-income families.
The United States’ public school system has an estimated 4.9 million ELs, up nearly 30% from what it was in the early 2000s. And of those, 77% (almost four million) are Latino. Despite this increase, the president has proposed to reduce and consolidate funding for these students. And though Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s claims that “more money is not the answer for schools,” there is extensive evidence showing that when states and districts target their money towards well-proven initiatives, student outcomes improve, especially for low-income and minority students. This shows that the budget is less rooted in fact and research, and more rooted in a desire to show which students matter to this presidency.
Though legislators on both sides of the aisle are likely to ignore President Trump’s proposal to cut the education budget as they have in years past, it is important to call attention to the proposal so its problematic nature can be addressed. On its face, it may seem as though consolidating programs and allowing states to decide how to best serve their students would be better than allowing “out-of-touch” DC legislators to make those decisions.
However, dedicating funds at the federal level is how we ensure that all students’ needs are met and not overlooked. Title I and Title III were developed to do just that, serving as accountability measures so that all students would have access to good school services. And without them, Latino students will be left to fend for themselves.
Latinos are the future of the United States, representing 25% of students in our K-12 schools. We all have an interest in seeing these students succeed and become productive members of the nation’s economy. Despite this, the president’s budget request reflects that the needs of students of color are not important. We encourage you to read our statement on the budget cuts and tell your representatives not to support this immoral budget that will undermine the progress of the country’s economy, innovation, and systems of education.