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.

School Board’s Marcia Andrews gets front row seat to Bill Clinton, history

Presidents venture to Palm Beach County with some bit of regularity — they come for the golf, the balmy clime, the deep pockets. Barack Obama has visited. So have George W. Bush and Gerald Ford. John F. Kennedy kept a family compound on Palm Beach. And after Kennedy died, Lyndon B. Johnson traveled to Boca Raton in his stead to open Florida Atlantic University.

But how many ever make that hour-long trek past seemingly endless cane fields to Belle Glade?

Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton did. And by the accounts we can find, he might very well have been the first since Herbert Hoover drove through on the way to dedicate the Herbert Hoover dike at a ceremony on Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston. That was 1961.

Clinton didn’t just drive through. He stopped.

Clinton makes history in Belle Glade (Damon Higgins / Palm Beach Post))
Clinton makes history in Belle Glade (Damon Higgins / Palm Beach Post))

The former two-term president didn’t come to Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade campus to look back on accomplishments from his administration but to urge the voters of The Glades to put his wife in that esteemed office.

They cheered all the way.

Palm Beach County School Board member Marcia Andrews, who represents the region, was giddy even five hours later.

“I was just so excited, I’ve not calmed down. We talked about it all day. I spoke to the mayor (Steve Wilson) as they were setting up. He was the first president to come to Belle Glade and we wanted all the community to be out there to see history. It was history today.”

School Board member Marcia Andrews (right) serves up some BBQ after Clinton's visit Tuesday. (Sonja Isger / The Palm Beach Post)
School Board member Marcia Andrews (right) serves up some BBQ after Clinton’s visit Tuesday. (Sonja Isger / The Palm Beach Post)

Andrews credited Clinton’s appearance to the work of local elected officials from Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson to County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings and state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo – who also organized the parking lot barbecue that followed.

“Alcee said he’d made it a special point to work with Bill Clinton to say, ‘We can’t just go back to Boca Raton and West Palm Beach,” Andrews said. “We wanted to let people know their voices are going to be heard.”

Gwendolyn and Marvin Davis closed their flower shop to stand in line with more than 300 others just for a shot at seeing the silver-haired statesman.

The multiplying enthusiasts and the rather snug venue didn’t bother Gwen, 53, “It’s always better to have too many, than not enough,” she said of the crowd.

(Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
(Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Both grew up here and neither remembers ever seeing another President in the town where soil is her fortune – and poverty is too often her residents’ plight.

Marvin, 61, thinks maybe Kennedy whisked through once.

“It was like a drive-through. He didn’t stop. It was a motorcade.”

And he also remembers a rally for Hubert Humphrey at Glades Central High back in the late ‘60s — but then Humphrey never landed that office.

Sisters Rose Golden and Sandra Walker were so eager to meet Clinton, they arrived more than an hour ahead of schedule to be among the first in line. Both in their early 50s, they said they sped to planning when a friend texted Clinton was coming.

Said Sandra: “I can’t remember a president — never here.”

 The dedication of the Herbert Hoover Dike in January 12, 1961. (Dick Heseler / The Palm Beach Post)
The dedication of the Herbert Hoover Dike in January 12, 1961. (Dick Heseler / The Palm Beach Post)