Politics & Government

SC education takes a hit in Trump’s budget

A portion of President Donald Trump's first proposed budget, focusing on the Department of Education, and released by the Office of Management and Budget, is photographed in Washington, Wednesday, March 15, 2017.
A portion of President Donald Trump's first proposed budget, focusing on the Department of Education, and released by the Office of Management and Budget, is photographed in Washington, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. AP

South Carolina would face deep cuts to education programs under President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.

Trump’s reported $1.15 trillion budget blueprint would slash funding to the Department of Education and Department of Transportation. Educators in South Carolina, a state that ranked dead last in education according to the annual US News survey, are “deeply concerned” with his proposal, which stands to eliminate funding for teacher and principal preparation and recruitment in South Carolina.

“As a rural state, South Carolina relies on these funds to recruit and retain high quality educators and to provide quality afterschool programs for our most at risk students,” said South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “I look forward to working closely with our congressional delegation and other state chiefs to ensure that students in South Carolina and across the country have the resources they need to be successful.”

Spearman, however, supports school choice programs “that have the potential to provide additional options to parents and students in our state.”

The blueprint called for $9 billion, a 13 percent reduction in the Education Department’s funding, to “refocus its mission on supporting States and school districts in their efforts to provide high quality education” to US students.

Trump’s proposal also cuts 13 percent, or $2.4 billion, from the federal transportation budget.

South Carolina House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said he isn’t sure if the budget cuts would affect his state’s struggling infrastructure, as road repairs are mainly paid for by the state gas tax and two other sources of income and not necessarily money disbursed from the federal DOT.

“When I look at infrastructure being cut, the question I have to then ask is, is it infrastructure spending being cut or is it streamlining the efficiency within infrastructure?” Simrill told McClatchy.

Representatives from South Carolina’s state transportation department said they have not yet reviewed the president’s blueprint and declined to comment.

The only Democrat in South Carolina’s congressional delegation, Rep. Jim Clyburn, saw Trump’s budget as a threat to education and one that he said puts the African-American community’s “life, limb and peace of mind” in jeopardy.

“A budget is much more than an expression of policies; it is a statement of moral principles,” Clyburn said in an email. “The Trump budget destroys jobs, slashes education and abandons research most especially in areas of lifesaving cures and treatments for diseases.”

Some Republican delegates in the state were reluctant to take a position on what Trump’s first major budget proposal means for their state and the nation. Many of them said they were still reviewing the blueprint.

“As President Trump promised during the campaign, his budget works to significantly reduce the size of government while strengthening our military and national security apparatus,” Sen. Tim Scott said in an email. “This is the first step of the budgeting process, and I will continue to review the President’s budget request over the coming days. We must ensure that we are both streamlining duplicative and wasteful government programs, and properly funding agencies that help those in need and support our national priorities.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy shared similar sentiments, wanting to hear the full proposal before making a firm judgement.

“President Trump’s budget proposal is just that — a proposal,” Gowdy said in an email. “This is the first step in a multifaceted process where Congress will work with the administration to continue to reign in our unsustainable debt, prioritize our national security, and grow our economy. I look forward to continuing to review the President’s budget proposal and work with my colleagues to come up with a balanced budget reflective of our nation’s priorities.”

Indeed, a president’s budget request is more a statement of policy priorities than a blueprint for legislation. Often Congress ignores the plan as it crafts its own budget plans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, in a statement, said he likes some of the numbers in the president’s budget blueprint, but said there was little chance it would make it past the House of Representatives.

“Historically, presidential budgets do not fare well with Congress,” Graham wrote. “I appreciate that this budget increases defense spending, yet these increases in defense come at the expense of national security, soft power, and other priorities.”

Reps. Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson also praised the budget proposal for its 10 percent, or $54 billion, boost in military spending.

“It is long past time to shore up the nation’s defenses with the spending needed to modernize our military and improve readiness,” Duncan said. “Defending our country must always be the nation’s top priority, and this budget takes important steps in that direction.”

Wilson also called the military boost “a step in the right direction,”

“As Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, I appreciate that the President is focused on rebuilding our military,” he said.

Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice could not be reached for comment.

Donovan Harrell: 202-383-6044, @dono_harrell