President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening, emphasizing his support for immigration reform and restoring infrastructure.
The President called on Congress to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, for which the White House is in the process of crafting a proposal. If passed, this package would help to update and rebuild American infrastructure. It is unclear if the White House’s proposal will include specific funding for school buildings and facilities, but Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate recently sent a letter to the President requesting infrastructure funds for schools.
President Trump spoke about his Administration’s priorities for immigration reform as well – an issue that has made fiscal year 2018 appropriations negotiations particularly contentious. The White House proposal, released last week, includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, new restrictions on the U.S. immigration system, increased resources for border security, and dedicated funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Education received minimal attention in the President’s address. The President called for the expansion of “vocational schools,” which aligns with recent speeches made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos calling for more apprenticeship opportunities for students and a shift away from viewing a 4-year college degree as the only traditional path forward for high school graduates. “Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential,” the President said.
The President did not outline a specific proposal or call for additional funding for vocational education. In fact, the White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 requested a cut for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education programs. Congress though is in the midst of working to reauthorize the Perkins Act. The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation last year, and the Senate is reportedly working on its own legislation.
President Trump also noted that the Administration intends to make additional progress in its deregulation efforts this year, as he urged federal agency heads to continue to cut waste and asked Congress to provide agencies with “the authority to reward good workers – and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.” He touted the deregulatory actions already taken by the Administration as well. “In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history,” he said.
Secretary DeVos released a statement following the conclusion of the State of the Union supporting the President’s comments on expanding vocational education. “America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy, she said. “I join the President in calling on Congress to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways.”
The President is expected to elaborate on these themes later this month, when he sends his proposed budget to Congress.
Resources: Alyson Klein, “Trump Calls on Congress to Help ‘Dreamers,’ Bolster Borders,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 30, 2018.