School lunches, teacher training, college aid for promising scientists.
Those are among the federally-funded programs that benefit students and schools in Georgia — programs that are cut or eliminated in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.
The state gets more than $3 billion in federal subsidies for education, $1.9 billion for K-12 and $1.4 billion for the University System of Georgia.
The so-called “skinny” presidential budget is essentially a wish list, and Congress will write its own version. Though Trump’s budget cuts education nationwide by 13 percent, it is only 62 pages long and devoid of enough detail to know how Georgia would be fully affected.
But there are some specific recommendations with obvious real-world consequences.
A group of educational programs aimed at helping disadvantaged students would see a reduction of $193 million nationally. One of them, named after the late Ronald E. McNair, the saxophone-playing astronaut for whom three DeKalb County schools are named, helps disadvantaged college students with “strong academic potential” earn doctoral degrees.
“I hope thoughtfulness prevails,” said DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green.
Trump’s budget eliminates the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which pays for before- and after-school programs and summer programs. It’s worth $33 million to Georgia. “We would be forced to find other means to do that,” Green said.
The budget also eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, a teacher training program that has “scant” evidence of an impact, the budget says. Georgia would lose $62 million there, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
“The cuts would be tough for any district, there’s no question,” said Claire Suggs, policy analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
Big school districts may find the local revenue to maintain their professional development programs, but some rural districts have at times relied entirely on the federal fund to keep their teachers up to date on best practices, she said.
Another big hit to schools would come from reductions in the agriculture budget, which shrinks 21 percent. Department of Agriculture dollars cover the free- and reduced-price school meal programs said to be the main source of nutrition for many students with little food at home. Georgia gets more than $758 million from that.
There are some increases for education, but not necessarily for traditional school classrooms. Trump puts an additional $168 million into charter schools nationally. Again, it’s unclear how much Georgia would benefit. And he puts a quarter billion dollars into a new “private school choice” program, which could mean money for tuition vouchers.
There is an added $1 billion for the Title 1 program, the subsidy for schools with concentrated poverty. The money, though, is dedicated to establishing systems of “student-based” budgeting and open enrollment so students can switch from one public school to another, taking their government funding with them.