Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Leaves Children Behind
Giselle Miranda (Former Staff)Federal Budget
The release of the administration’s infrastructure plan and the FY19 President’s Budget shines a light on Trump’s legislative priorities (Spoiler: minimal good news for children).
The White House plans to allocate $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure over the next 10 years—though only $200 billion of that sum will come from the federal government, leaving state and local governments to come up with the rest.
Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s infrastructure was a driving point in his recent State of the Union address and throughout his campaign. In his promise he pledged to fix “inner cities,” rebuild highways, bridges, airports, schools, and hospitals. These are presented as great priorities, considering that America is long overdue for an infrastructure revamp. Yet children have once again been left behind in Trump’s agenda.
For example, the plan fails to mention school revitalization, which is shocking—public schools are the second largest sector of the country’s infrastructure after roads and highways. In public schools alone, 50 million students and 3 million teachers across the country spend the majority of their day in facilities that are falling apart.
“Our young people are 25 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future, and it is critical they have the resources they need to learn and excel…” – Representative Debbie Dingell
Students cannot be expected to perform their best in schools—and carry our country into a brighter future— when the main buildings for many schools are more than 40 years old, and in some instances, even have lead paint chipping off the walls. Studies show that “good and stable facilities can increase student achievement, reduce chronic absenteeism, drop-outs, and suspensions and even improve teacher retention.”
This is not a regional issue. Rural and urban schools both experience resource shortages and structural problems. It is, however, an issue that predominately impacts impoverished communities of color.
Local school districts bear the brunt of public school costs, with the federal government only contributing about 8 percent to K-12 programs—they argue that funding should be the responsibility of the state. How are less affluent states and local school districts expected to fund school revitalization on top of the average 92 percent they already pay for the cost of K-12 programs (including the average 99.8 percent of costs for maintaining school buildings)? Now, Trump is seeking to reduce education spending by 10.5 percent. That’s a $7 billion cut to the Department of Education, much of it from public schools.
Instead of investing in public school programs or prioritizing school infrastructure projects, the administration intends to promote school choice policies.
In giving parents alternative schooling options, the administration claims that all students, even those living in economically disadvantaged areas, will have the ability to reach their full potential.
School choice may give students more education opportunities, but it comes at the expense of digging into already limited public school funds, which the administration plans to cut by roughly $4.59 billion in FY19.
Additionally, school choice voucher programs are risky if implemented poorly. Many argue that it promotes a system of segregation rather than integration if resources, such as transportation, aren’t easily accessible. Yet Trump does not address this concerns in either his budget request or his infrastructure blueprint.
Education is not the only area Trump’s infrastructure plan neglects. Promoting safe learning and teaching environments is critical, but so is investment in training programs that can connect youth who are either disconnected from school and the workforce to job training and employment opportunities.
Youth unemployment rates were at 9 percent in July 2017, which was greater than the national unemployment average, 4.4 percent that same year. This demonstrates the need to invest in youth training programs, yet the President’s FY 19 Budget aims to divest funding to major federal programs like Job Corps (a 24 percent cut) and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth Training (a 40 percent cut). Meanwhile, youth training is never mentioned in the workforce development section of Trump’s infrastructure blueprint.
The fact that Trump’s infrastructure plan ignores children’s issues like school infrastructure and youth unemployment does not bode well for our nation’s future. We may need to rebuild America’s infrastructure, but we also need to rebuild our commitment to putting kids and families first in federal budget and policy decisions.