Avossa: Trump’s budget cuts would hurt PBC school reforms

Superintendent Robert Avossa (right) says President Trump’s proposed education budget cuts would hurt the county’s students.

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa today criticized President Trump’s proposed education budget, saying that his plan to eliminate a federal grant program for teacher training and development would hamper efforts to reform the county’s public schools.

Trump, who through property taxes paid $190,000 to the county’s schools and other municipal governments last year, may be putting efforts to improve the schools in peril by proposing the cuts, Avossa said in an interview today with The Palm Beach Post.

“We’re worried,” Avossa said. “We’re worried about cuts to any (federal education) dollars.”

Palm Beach School Superintendent Robert Avossa  (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Overall, Trump is proposing to cut the federal education department’s budget by 13.5 percent, or $9.2 billion, including money for teacher training and summer and after-school programs, The Atlantic reported.

Avossa said his primary concern is Trump’s proposal to eliminate a $450 million grant program that distributes money to help struggling public schools better train and recruit teachers.

The program, known as Title II, or the “Supporting  Effective Instruction State Grant” program, would be completely eliminated under Trump’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education.

Palm Beach County schools are expected to receive $8.3 million from that grant program next year, with the money used in part to pay the salaries of supervisors and curriculum specialists who help improve teachers’ performance in the classroom.

Though that’s a small portion of the school district’s $2.4 billion annual budget, some of Avossa’s moves to restructure the school district bureaucracy to better support individual schools are financed in part by that money, officials said.

For Palm Beach County in particular, Avossa said, “it’s going to be a pretty big deal.”

According to Education Week, many experts say it is unlikely that Congress, which sets the federal budget, would actually move forward with such a drastic cut to a program that directly affects public schools across the country.

But Avossa said that he is worried that Trump’s proposed education cuts are receiving too little attention amid the debate over other hot political topics.

“I want parents to pay attention,” he said. “I think it’s important that people pay attention.”

Avossa is drafting an email to school district parents and will forward a copy to the county’s congressional delegation. He said he would encourage any parents or community members to share their concerns with their congressional representatives.

“We know that many families benefit from Title II programs and we hope to continue to receive the necessary funding to maintain these programs,” Avossa wrote in a draft of the letter he provided to The Post.

Check back for updates to this story.

The Trump gets fact-checked on the Common Core

Donald Trump (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Donald Trump (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

At the GOP debate in Miami Thursday night, Donald Trump said Common Core is “education through Washington D.C.”

In this election season he isn’t the first to vilify the education standards that have been adopted by 42 states. Florida adopted Common Core standards in 2010 and then tweaked and renamed them the Florida State Standards in 2014 after public opposition. 

Which brings us to Trump’s declaration that Washington and the federal government are behind the Common Core standards.

The fact-checking website PolitiFace that rates the accuracy of statement by politicians rated this one False.

In their analysis, the fact checkers go to the history of Common Core – state education officials who wanted to create standards that set the same academic goals for students across states — so teachers would aim to impart the same knowledge and skills to students in Florida as they would in California or Massachussetts.  (Theirs has more detail.)

They also note that it’s been up to states to then adopt the standards.

When it comes to the feds, Politifact said:

Washington has done a bit to encourage states to adopt the standards. President Barack Obama’s signature education program, Race to the Top, gave states that have adopted a set of standards extra points (40 of a possible 500) when competing for grants.

But the federal government didn’t help create the standards, and has no control over how they’re implemented. Even states that have adopted the standards are still free to set their own curricula.

In short, it doesn’t matter who the president is because there’s not much the federal government can do about Common Core.