School & District Management

Indiana Lawmaker’s Staffer Tapped to Craft Trump School Choice Plan

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 06, 2016 3 min read
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has tapped Rob Goad, who has worked for an Indiana Republican congressman, to work on school choice issues in the real estate executive’s bid for the White House.

Goad is on leave from the office of Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and for the past three weeks has been in New York City working for the Trump campaign as a policy adviser, according to sources. He’s the first adviser for Trump to focus specifically on education issues. The campaign’s aim is to have Goad flesh out Trump’s previously stated support for school choice, specifically choice programs that have been successful in states, and possibly work on other K-12 issues as well.

Goad may also work on higher education policy for Trump, whose campaign approached the congressional staffer about joining the team.

A senior policy adviser for Messer, Goad has handled both school choice issues specifically and K-12 policy in general in Messer’s office, where he has worked for five years.

Although Trump has riled up many Republican politicians and policy veterans with some of his public statements and positions, his campaign’s decision to hire Goad seems like a relatively mainstream GOP choice. And Goad’s focus on promoting school choice will likely play well with a broad swath of the Republican Party.

Messer himself is a member of the House education committee. He has criticized some of Trump’s more controversial statements on issues not related to education, but has also indicated his support for Trump. Messer previously backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also a big fan of school choice, during Bush’s primary campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump has largely neglected K-12 during his quest for the White House, aside from brief statements supporting school choice, attacks on the Common Core State Standards, and a pledge to end gun-free school zones. But Goad’s shift to the Trump election team coincides with a new emphasis on K-12 choice in particular for the Republican presidential nominee.

As of late on the campaign trail, Trump has been speaking more frequently about his support for school choice as part of a recent attempt to win African-American votes by decrying the state of education in inner cities.

And in August, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said that there would be an upcoming “education week” for Trump’s campaign. But so far, that kind of weeklong focus on education has not occurred. Back in April, the Trump campaign signaled that he would be giving a policy speech on education as part of a series of such remarks—a speech he has yet to deliver.

Track Record on Issue

In a speech last month, however, Trump did propose creating a tax deduction for child-care costs, although he didn’t provide many details. His campaign also indicated that he wanted to scrap the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit on federal taxes.

Critics, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, argued that his tax-deduction plan would only benefit relatively wealthy families.

Picking a staffer from Messer’s office, in particular, to work on K-12 choice policies seems like a logical move by the Trump campaign.

At an event in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention last month, Messer spoke about the challenge of increasing school choice without creating a “federal Department of School Choice.”

And during the push to reauthorize federal education law last year, Messer backed a plan to allow Title I funds earmarked for students from low-income backgrounds to be used for private schools. (In Washington shorthand, that proposal has been dubbed “Title I portability.”)

But the idea didn’t get traction and wasn’t included in what became the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act.

In March, the Republican Policy Committee, for which Goad is listed as a staffer, held a briefing called School Choice: Fact vs. Fiction & Recent Developments. The briefing featured Messer, as well as prominent school choice supporters like Gerard Robinson, the former Florida education commissioner now at the American Enterprise Institute, and Adam Peshek, the director of education choice at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by Jeb Bush.

Last year, Messer and his fellow Hoosier on the House education committee, GOP Rep. Todd Rokita, also questioned the distribution of federal money for charter schools in Indiana under state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 07, 2016 edition of Education Week as Trump Taps Indiana Lawmaker’s Staffer to Craft Plan on School Choice

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