A couple of weeks ago, I posted responses I received from U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE) and U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE) concerning the FY2018 U.S. Department of Education budget. Yesterday, I received the following from U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE).
Dear Mr. Ohlandt:
Thank you for contacting me regarding President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the proposed cuts to education programs. I appreciate your taking the time to write to me about this issue.
As someone who has served as a countywide elected official charged with writing balanced budgets, I have long viewed budgets as not just a collection of numbers and programs, but also a statement about our basic values. Unfortunately, the budget proposed by President Trump denies our basic values by balancing the budget on the backs of children, seniors, the poor, and the middle class, while cutting investments essential for our nation’s future. We need a budget that preserves our social safety net and recognizes that investments in infrastructure, research, health care, and education are critical to growing our economy and supporting a strong middle class.
I am particularly concerned about the President’s proposed $9.2 billion cut to the Department of Education. Among other programs, this budget eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program, Title II grants for teacher training, and Title IV grants for academic enrichment and student support. The budget also proposes drastic cuts to programs like TRIO, GEAR UP, and Federal Work-Study that help low-income students access college, as well as eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that incentivizes individuals to take public sector jobs. These cuts help fund $1.4 billion in school choice initiatives, including $1 billion for Title I portability, an increase for the charter school grant program, and a new private school choice initiative.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you can be sure that I will advocate to reverse these cuts to critical Department of Education programs, as well as support access to quality public K-12 and post-secondary education. You might be pleased to know that I cosigned a number of letters this May to the Senate Appropriations Committee advocating for funding for a variety of education programs, including: 21st Century Community Learning Centers; Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA); Title II School Leader Recruitment and Support Program; Title IV Student Success and Academic Enrichment Block Grant; Teacher Quality Partnership Grants; Pell Grants; and, campus-based student financial aid programs like Federal Work Study and Perkins Loans. Please know that I will do all I can to prioritize funding these important programs as Congress moves through the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations process.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I am honored to represent Delaware in the United States Senate and value hearing from constituents on issues of concern. My website, http://www.coons.senate.gov, can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.
Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator
Rep. John Carney, Senator Carper and Senator Coons:
We need you to vote NO on the ESEA Reauthorization. This is not about children. It is about companies, and their endless invasion into public education. They want to turn our children into their testing guinea pigs with their personalized learning and competency-based education. We know this is just an even more invasive method for them to break up Common Core and standardized tests into micro-chunks through their digital platforms. We know lobbyists in Delaware and across America have been pounding you and your offices with all the reasons you need to vote yes. We know the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and Governor Markell have most likely been calling you non-stop to vote yes. That is not good enough to sell the souls of our children down the river. You represent the people of Delaware. Not companies like Schoology and Achieve. Not American Institutes for Research and all their sub-companies. Not the Council of Chief State School Officers. Not the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the University of California.
I am quite sure all three of you have aspirations to continue in government, whether it is at a state or federal level. The people of Delaware are fast becoming aware of the dangers in this legislation. Those in the know don’t want this. They don’t want their children broken down into data points and tested incessantly. This is what this bill is all about. It is not about the students. It will only serve to kill the illusion of helping those who need it the most. Vote with your conscience, not your future prospects. Vote with the knowledge that if you let this bill pass, your chances of re-election or your campaign for Governor will meet with very serious resistance. This is not a threat, this is a fact. When you start messing with children, you hold your fate in the hands of parents. The same parents who press buttons at the voting booth. Some of you may think it is a foregone conclusion that your political lives will continue based on voting patterns in Delaware. This smoke and mirrors is evaporating faster than you realize. The polls may say one thing, but the reality is a parent’s love for their child is bi-partisan.
Do the right thing for the children of Delaware and America. We the people are counting on you.