A few days ago, the White House sent a $4.4 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. Defense spending—including border security—and tax cuts were prioritized in the budget proposal while nondefense domestic spending is subject to extreme cuts. Programs like Community Development Block Grants, the Public Housing Capital Fund, Preschool Development Grants, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, are all zeroed out; and funding for rental housing assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—which more than 10 percent of the American population relies on for food—and Medicaid are drastically reduced. The primary purpose of the budget proposal is to signal the president’s priorities to Congress, with the hope that Congress will support these priorities in its official budget resolution and reconciliation processes. But, even if Congress eventually passes a budget that looks nothing like the president’s proposal, the messages signaled by the budget proposal let us know that we can no longer take for granted that we have a reliable partner in the federal government.
Many initial reactions to the budget proposal from the education community focused on macro-level spending cuts to the U.S. Department of Education (at roughly $3.6 billion) and the implications of increased school choice spending, but little has been written about the cumulative impact that these proposed cuts could have on students, their families, and the systems that serve them. In many circles, there is an implied perception that children can compartmentalize academic achievement from their lives.
The reality is that children cannot compartmentalize the many facets of their lives—their physical and emotional health, family life, and community environment, amongst other things, hugely impact their educational outcomes. Those working on behalf of children and youth should create a world that does not create artificial boundaries between school and life. This type of change starts by engaging in deliberate, action-oriented conversation about the systemic scaling of holistic approaches to education—which feels especially needed in a time when federal supports are increasingly unpredictable.
FSG’s new resource, Beyond the Classroom: Aligning Systems to Support Student Achievement, illustrates how a range of societal and structural factors can play a major role in shaping the life chances of students and encourages work across systems and sectors to improve outcomes for America’s children. We hope this brief sparks provocative conversations and collective action that leads to the increased funding, influence, and advancement of systemic remedies that address the non-academic barriers to student achievement.