What does the Trump victory mean for education? Right now, all we can do is speculate. There are some things we do know, however. Education will not be a near-term priority. There are just too many critical issues for an administration that intends to usher in policy shifts on the economy, healthcare and immigration, for starters. That means within a few broad parameters, the Department of Education will be on its own for a while, as larger policy issues are resolved.
The new Trump presidential transition web site is short on details, no surprise this early in the planning process. About education, the site states that, “The Trump Administration will advance policies to support learning-and-earning opportunities at the state and local levels – where the heart and soul of American education takes place. We will accomplish this goal through high-quality early childhood education, magnet schools, STEM or theme-based programs; expansion of choice through charters, vouchers, and teacher-driven learning models; and relief from U.S. Department of Education regulations that inhibit innovation. A Trump Administration also will make post-secondary options more affordable and accessible through technology enriched delivery models.”
This reinforces the few things we do know; that choice will be a central theme, along with early childhood education, and that federal regulation will be limited. Back in September, candidate Trump proposed a $20 billion block grant that would expand school choice for low-income students. Existing federal education funds would be redirected to pay for the block grant, with control left to the states to decide whether the dollars would follow children to public, private, charter or magnet schools. At the time, Trump did not specify which federal funds would be redirected, but given the magnitude of the program and its emphasis on making choice widely available to low-income students, it seems likely that Title I dollars would make up a substantial part of the funding base. Congress likes choice and it has flirted with making Title I funds portable before, but even in a Republican controlled Congress a $20 billion program coupled with a significant shift in traditional Title I focus and funding could be a hard sell.
It also seems likely that the Trump administration will be friendlier to the for-profit education industry, particularly those in the higher education sector promoting more competition – less regulation between for-profits, public and private higher educational institutions. You can expect to see a pull back on the gainful employment and borrower defense to repayment rules. It will be interesting to see when the Trump administration comes down on open education resources and the Obama administration’s distaste for educational publishers.
The Department of Education is focused on finishing the various rules and regulations related to ESSA implementation and supporting the initiatives dear to the Obama administration. But it must be disheartening to know that much of this most recent work will be rescinded or ignored. Decisions about policy and implementation will probably be firmly in the hands of the states and federal oversight will be pretty light. It’s unlikely that the Department of Education will be abolished. It’s very likely that it will be downsized and that many new appointees and hires will be new to federal government and drawn from outside the ranks of traditional education practitioners.
Meanwhile the business of education must go on. We’ve already seen a few ugly incidents so it’s important that we learn how to talk and listen to one another. Teachers are at the forefront of helping their students learn how to have a civil discussion. More than ever, Businesses and Higher Education will need to collaborate to help to ensure the skill gaps meet the needs of current and future job growth. It starts with a meeting and a discussion between businesses and higher educational institutions. This is exactly what we help to facilitate. With more competition and less regulation, we think it’s especially important to help both business and students expand the places where they seek information and so that they get more adept at evaluating and selecting educational programs and providers.