U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene recently met with regional representatives to address potential federal policy changes that may slash education funds.

School board administrators and directors from Washington’s 1st Congressional District attended the meeting in early May to provide feedback on specific concerns about the potential negative effects to local programs. The 1st Congressional District consists of most of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and part of King County.

“...Our educators and administrators, they are the ones who are on the ground working with our students every day,” DelBene said. “Their feedback is incredibly important.”

Trump rolled out his budget for 2018, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” in March. The document allots $59 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, a $9 billion reduction from last year.

Trump’s budget promises “support for the Nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities,” and to allow the Department of Education to “carry out its core mission while lowering costs to the taxpayer by reducing or eliminating funding for programs that are not effective, that duplicate other efforts, or that do not serve national needs,” according to the document.

DelBene called the plan devastating, and the reductions “draconian cuts.” Critical early learning, after-school and special education programs are at risk. Students in all grade levels could be affected in ways that can’t be repaired, she said.

Trump’s budget includes a 13 percent reduction from 2017 spending, while investing another $1.4 billion into the school choice programs. The system offers families alternatives to attending the public schools they are assigned, which is usually determined by where they live.

The choice program will have an estimated $100 billion, which includes matching state and local money, according to the budget. About $168 million of the increase will be for charter schools, and $250 million for a new private school choice program. It also adds another $1 billion in Title I funds, which are dedicated for schools with a high population of students from low-income families.

The chunk is meant to encourage school districts to “adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice,” according to the budget.

Monroe School Board director Nancy Truitt Pierce, who is also the coordinating member for the First Congressional District of the Federal Relations Network of School Directors, attended the regional meeting with DelBene. She said there are already many alternative choices available for families in the area, such as the Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, which allows parents to be a part of their children’s learning process.

Pierce said almost all who attended the meeting “don’t feel we even really need to go down this road, we already have great choices for our parents. What is all this talk about providing choice while we have choice?”

Trump’s budget would also end dozens of programs, such as Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grants, which is money set aside for schools with students that struggle with literacy, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers before- and after-school and summer programs. 

“Are we concerned about the proposed cuts? Absolutely,” wrote Monroe School District spokesperson Erin Zacharda in an email. “We are always concerned when there is talk of budget cuts.”

She wrote that 4.26 percent of the school district’s annual budget comes from federal funding sources.

“Since the budget cuts at the federal level are only proposals at this point, we are not planning to make changes or reductions to any programs until we have specific direction from the state or federal government,” Zacharda wrote.

Congress does not have to vote on Trump’s budget, and will more than likely come up with a version of its own, said Ramsey Cox, DelBene’s communications director. The House Budget Committee is expected to have a hearing on the GOP’s budget this month, but that could be pushed back, she said.