Perhaps the most critical areas regarding childhood development—health and education—face the steepest budget cuts under the president’s proposed 2018 budget. Though full adoption of the budget is unlikely, the administration’s proposal helps provide a blueprint and guidance for Congress. As tax reform legislation under consideration is projected to balloon the federal deficit, lawmakers may feel added pressure to reduce spending through cuts in 2018 appropriations and changes to entitlements.
If the Trump administration’s 2018 budget were to be fully adopted, total federal spending on children 2018–27 would decline at least 9 percent compared with current law, according to a new Urban Institute analysis. Spending on children’s education programs would experience the largest proportional declines (15 percent or $70 billion), and kids’ health programs would face the largest dollar cuts ($140 billion or 10 percent).
How education programs would be impacted
The budget proposes cuts to education programs over the next 10 years with declines in special education and Title I funding and a 74 percent reduction in spending on school improvement programs, which includes the complete elimination of some programs and reductions in spending in others.
Together, these programs support the education of millions of US children who participate in public schooling each year:
- 21 million children attend schools with high shares of students from low-income families, which receive supplemental funding through Title I.
- 6.6 million students with disabilities, or 13 percent of total public school enrollment, receive special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- Millions of students also benefit both directly and indirectly from school improvement programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which funds after-school programs.
Most reductions in children’s health spending stem from Medicaid
A 10 percent cut in federal spending on children’s health programs over the 10-year budget period would be driven by a $148 billion reduction in Medicaid, which pays for health insurance coverage for disabled and low- and moderate-income children. (This reduction is based on the assumption that unspecified Medicaid cuts would be applied to children and adults uniformly.)
More than 37 million US children were enrolled in Medicaid for at least part of fiscal year 2016. Together with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid helps provide health insurance coverage for nearly 40 percent of US children.
Savings from the budget’s Medicaid cuts would be slightly offset by increased funding for early childhood home visiting programs and a proposed two year reauthorization of CHIP. However, federal CHIP funding already lapsed earlier this fall, and lawmakers are continuing to work on reauthorizing the program before states run out of funds and may begin dropping children off coverage.
Budget savings of $1.25 trillion from a non-specific proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would almost certainly include additional cuts to children’s Medicaid and health spending. Similarly, $660 billion in unspecified cuts to non-defense discretionary spending would likely further lower spending on education programs and in other areas that heavily rely on discretionary funding.
Other important programs also face spending reductions or elimination
Spending on children would also be reduced in a variety of other areas, including child-related nutrition, income security and support, early care and education, housing, social services, and training programs. These include an $18 billion (17 percent) reduction in federal Head Start spending, which funded early education for nearly 1 million children in 2016, and the elimination of the Social Services Block Grant, which supports services for around 14 million children each year.
Additionally, proposed changes to eight major federal safety net programs would reduce resources for one in five American families and nearly one in three families with children if fully implemented, according to estimates from a recent Urban study. The programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and housing assistance.
Cuts would threaten programs that help support children’s full and healthy development
If proposed changes in the president’s budget were enacted, spending on children in 2027 would be much lower than today, and these changes would be slanted toward the most vulnerable children. Fewer resources would be spent supporting the healthy development of children during the critical years that shape their ability to reach their full potential as adults and workers.
These cuts do not reflect a decrease in need. The number of children in the US is projected to continue growing over the next 10 years along with health care costs and economic inequality. As Congress considers a tax cut that would mostly benefit businesses and wealthy Americans, it seems that children and their families are not given the attention they deserve.