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SNAPSHOT | Trump Administration

100 Days: How Three Presidents Stack Up On K-12

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President Donald Trump wrapped up his first 100 days in office last month. Education wasn’t a top priority for him on the campaign trail last year, although he has promoted school choice as a vehicle to help disadvantaged students obtain more opportunities. So what has Trump accomplished in the early part of his administration?

Education Week took a look at what Trump has done since taking the oath of office and compared it with what his two immediate predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, did during their first 100 days.

A couple of things to note: The education priorities for each president at the beginning of his first term were different, as were the larger policy and political contexts. For example, Obama took office during a national economic crisis in 2009 that affected education significantly. And Bush had discussed education extensively during the 2000 presidential race.

Trump’s team, meanwhile, has been consumed so far by issues including health care and immigration. In the education arena, the administration has focused, in particular, on rolling back what it sees as the previous administration’s overly prescriptive role on K-12 policy.

Donald Trump

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP-File

  • Signed an executive order designed to address federal overreach in education. The order calls for a study of K-12 regulations to be issued early next year.
  • Signed a repeal of two Obama-era regulations, one dealing with the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability rules and another dealing with teacher-preparation requirements.
  • Repealed Obama-era guidance designed to ensure transgender students could access the locker rooms and restrooms matching their gender identity.
  • Released a new U.S. Department of Education template for states’ plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


Trump hasn’t approved a signature piece of K-12 policy legislation, although the repeal of the ESSA accountability rules crafted by Obama’s Education Department could have a notable impact on how states approach the law, which kicks in this coming school year. He has promoted school choice and later this year might push for legislation to expand it.

Barack Obama

Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP-File

  • Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic-stimulus law, in 2009, which included some $100 billion for education.
  • The stimulus either expanded or created education programs that became closely associated with the Obama administration, including Race to the Top grants. School Improvement Grants were also dramatically expanded, as were state longitudinal-data sytems.
  • The stimulus also provided billions of dollars to help shore up state and local education budgets.


The stimulus contained some of the most significant education accomplishments of Obama’s tenure, although programs like Race to the Top and SIG eventually became more controversial, especially during his second term. It did not contain a reauthorization of the main federal K-12 law. That would have to wait until late 2015 and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

George W. Bush

Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP-File

  • Made reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act one of his top priorities during his first 100 days in office, discussing his vision publicly and meeting with lawmakers early on. He had also talked about his ideas for K-12 on the 2000 campaign trail.
  • By mid-March 2001, the Senate education committee had passed an overhaul of the ESEA, and later that month, the House officially began considering its own version of what ultimately became the No Child Left Behind Act.
  • Bush signed the NCLB law in early 2002, after negotiations bogged down in the middle of 2001. In fact, Bush was at a Florida elementary school reading to children and promoting NCLB legislation on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.


Although the NCLB law wasn’t signed during Bush’s first 100 days in office, the president had laid extensive groundwork for reauthorizing the main federal K-12 law. He also had a willing and important partner in the Senate from the opposite party, Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Top Photo Credit: Bruce Willey

Vol. 36, Issue 30, Page 21

Published in Print: May 10, 2017, as 100 Days: How Three Presidents Stack Up On K-12
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