When Donald Trump Jr. shared a photo from his son Spencer’s pre-K graduation, he probably didn’t expect it would be a controversial Instagram post. What could go wrong with an image of a young child finishing preschool? But at least one person took to the comments section on Trump Jr.’s post to remind the president’s son that not every American family can afford to send their children to pre-K — and that his father’s proposed budget cuts wouldn’t help.
“Nice private school!!!! While public schools funding is being cut under Betsy D. and this pathetic administration!!!!! So sad…Bigly!!!,” an Instagram user named evelynwilliams112 commented about the post.
The Instagram commenter may be referring to President Trump’s proposed FY (fiscal year) 2019 budget, which, as New America pointed out, includes a 5.6 percent cut in funding for the Department of Education. The proposed budget also includes significant cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes early education programs such as Head Start. Head Start includes services for low-income families with children younger than 5, including childcare and pre-K programs.
As in the Trump administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget, the FY 2019 proposal would effectively eliminate the Department of Health and Human Services’ grant program for pre-K, New America explains.
A Head Start pre-K teacher in New York City who asked to speak anonymously told Yahoo that her school doesn’t have everything it needs to help students, particularly special-education students. “We really don’t have the resources to serve the children the way that they should be served,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The teacher also says her school saw cuts to the special-education program after Betsy DeVos became the U.S. secretary of education. (She can’t say whether or not the cuts are directly correlated to federal changes, though, because she receives funding from both the city and the federal government-sanctioned agency in charge of her school.) And the lack of resources for special-education students can take attention away from other pre-K students too, she says.
“When Betsy DeVos took office, the biggest issue that arose right away was special ed funding. We saw cuts across the board,” the teacher tells Yahoo. “And because special ed is handed from the feds down to the state, and then down to the city and individual agencies, we saw real-time stuff happening, like kids not getting service. Period. At all. That were entitled to services. And there were just not enough service providers. There were too many cuts.”
And while many studies have shown positive effects of pre-K educations, at least one report has found that children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds stand to benefit even more from pre-K programs. The 2017 report “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” published by several early childhood experts, found that studies have shown that “children who have had early experiences of economic scarcity and insecurity gain more from these programs than their more advantaged peers,” NPR noted at the time. Budget cuts to programs like Head Start could affect children who rely on those programs in more ways than people might realize. Donald Trump Jr. certainly has the right to be proud of his son for graduating from pre-K — but it’s worth knowing about the current state of public pre-K programs too.
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