The U.S. House today finally passed a long-overdue spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that thoroughly rejects the pro-voucher, budget-cutting agenda espoused by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote the spending package through as well.
As Education Week reported, “Lawmakers sent a message to President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in their bill to fund the federal government: We’re not the biggest fans of your big education ideas.” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following similar assessment yesterday in response to the news that congressional leaders had reached this deal on a fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill:
Congress rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to gut public programs and punish everyday working families, and today passed a budget that includes funding for key programs that help poor kids, reduce classroom sizes, improve special education and community school programs, and provide educators with professional development to refine their craft. This means our schools are better resourced, our teachers have access to better training, and our kids are learning and thriving. We thank leaders Schumer and Pelosi for negotiating a deal that protects these priorities.
This budget also increases the maximum Pell Grant award, making higher education a more affordable reality, and expands eligibility for key loan forgiveness programs, allowing more student loan borrowers to get out of debt faster.
And instead of funding a hateful border wall or a violent deportation force, the bill directs an additional $2 billion toward our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, calls for $3.3 billion in increased funding for fighting the opioid and mental health crises, and makes further investments in early child care programs.
Finally, the agreement provides an overdue fix to the criminal background check system and includes grants to train law enforcement and school personnel on key violence warning signs, and methods to intervene once those warning signs are detected. By finally allowing the government to fund research on gun violence, we make a good start, but much more needs to be done to address this epidemic facing our schools and communities.