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What Federal Education Budget Cuts Mean for Professional Development

By Alina O'Donnell
 | May 26, 2017

professiona-developmentAmong massive cuts to science, arts, healthcare, and social welfare programs, President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, submitted to Congress on Tuesday, calls for a whopping $9.2 billion spending cut to education.

The largest proposed cut—at $2.3 billion—would come from the elimination of the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, or Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Title II is the key federal funding stream that districts use to recruit, train, support, and compensate their teacher workforce.

With such a huge loss of funding, districts would have to make difficult decisions about where to cut corners. Professional development, often viewed as a luxury instead of a necessity, is usually the first to go.

During an appearance on EduTalk Radio this week, International Literacy Association (ILA) Associate Executive Director Stephen Sye explained that criticism of professional development often comes because it can be a vague term that can take on a myriad of forms, making it difficult to correlate with student achievement. 

“There are a number of educators who feel that if the budget continues to be reduced, professional development will be eliminated. Unfortunately that does nothing but hurt our [future] workforce,” Sye said during the interview. “A less prepared teacher results in a less prepared student and ultimately a less qualified workforce.”

Sye discussed the implications of the budget cuts with host Larry Jacobs. He said that as federal funding streams dry up, organizations like ILA will play an increasingly important role in ensuring that all students have access to current, prepared, high-quality teachers.

“No matter what the climate, ILA is going to continue to advocate for making teachers better teachers because that’s what our students deserve,” said Sye.

Budget cuts will hit some schools hard. Organizations like ILA can level the playing field by making professional development resources more accessible to all educators. ILA publishes journals, books, position statements, and other resources on evidence-based strategies that have been proven effective in classrooms.

“If we as a nation are truly committed to quality education, then the cutting-edge practical resources on instruction that ILA provides are going to be more needed than ever,” Sye said. “What we offer in terms of knowledge is research based and is sound practice, no matter what the political climate brings.”

The organization also offers free registration to the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits for undergraduate preservice teachers. Participants can attend presentations by literacy experts, hands-on curriculum-building workshops, TED Talk-style lunches, literacy research sessions, and the social justice and current events panel.

But, Sye said, programming is only one part of the picture; having the opportunity for face-to-face networking and collaboration is the most valuable part of any conference. As districts start to reexamine and streamline their professional development budgets, Sye hopes they will continue to recognize these interactive learning events as a worthwhile investment.

“Without investing in teachers and quality professional development, how are they going to be current and prepared, and how are our students going to be current and prepared?” 

Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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