School districts across West Michigan are concerned public school children could be financially harmed by President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget cuts to the Department of Education.
Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman John Helmholdt said GRPS could miss out on as much as $6 million in federal aid if Trump's proposed budget becomes law. Helmholdt said the district could potentially lose $4 million for after-school programs and $2 million for teacher training
"Test scores are up, graduation rates are up, enrollment is up and this bomb that just got dropped could have that destabilizing effect," Helmholdt said.
President Trump's budget is merely a proposal at this stage and likely is far from being approved by Congress.
But, undoubtedly, the conversation has started what should be funded and what should be cut as the Trump administration promised to slim down the U.S. government.
Helmholdt said it's a terrible time to stop paying for after-school programs that are working.
"We know after-school programming directly impacts academic achievement," Helmholdt said. "Students who are in the loop after school are more likely to get good grades and to graduate from school."
President Trump at this point isn't willing to have the federal government continue to pay for those programs as he tries to form the size of the federal government during his administration. The President is proposing to cut the Department of Education by $9 billion.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who's worked to help Grand Rapids Public School Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal over the years, tweeted out President Trump's budget "ensures funding for @USEDGOV mission to support the nation’s most vulnerable students, including those with disabilities."
Secretary DeVos also tweeted the budget "delivers on @POTUS' promise to expand #SchoolChoice and focus on serving students."
Even with the proposed cuts, there are increases in the education budget to expand school choice, perhaps boosting charter schools and giving more choice to parents where they'd like to send their children.
Many in local public education wonder what kind of middle ground there could be to preserve some of the federally-funded programs on the chopping block.
"Even if they go halfway to what they've proposed, that is still going to have a devastating impact on students, parents, teachers, schools and the broader community," Helmholdt said.
Contact David Bailey: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @DavidBaileyWZZM.