Equity & Diversity

What Education Issues Loom This Year for Trump and Congress?

By Alyson Klein — January 17, 2018 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Education Department asked for. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., an ESSA architect, has expressed big concerns about this.

What will be the fate of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget? Will U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos get to applaud any new school choice initiative? And will Congress prevent hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” from being deported?

Here’s a rundown of what to watch for in Washington over the next 12 months when it comes to K-12:

Will the Education Department get a $9.2 billion cut?

Back in the spring, Trump proposed slashing the Education Department’s roughly $68 billion budget by $9.2 billion. He put some key programs on the chopping block, including Title II, a $2 billion program that helps states train teachers and reduce class size, as well as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a $1.1 billion after-school and summer learning program.

It looks like the cut to the after-school program isn’t happening, since bills in both the House and Senate keep the program in place. But Title II is more of a cliffhanger. The Senate kept the program intact, but the House voted to kill it. And there are other programs that could be eliminated or cut drastically.

Lawmakers might pass a final fiscal 2018 budget this month, so we may get some answers soon. And whatever Congress passes will impact the 2018-19 school year.

Will DeVos get a big school choice initiative over the finish line?

Trump came into office promising $20 billion for school choice. What he’s goten so far: new language in the tax code that allows families to use 529 plans—previously just for college savings—for K-12 costs, including private school tuition.

DeVos called that a good “first step,” but acknowledged it won’t do much to help children from low-income families.

However, it’s unclear if lawmakers will do more on school choice. Last year Congress rejected DeVos’ other school choice pitches—a new voucher program and the chance to allow Title I money to follow students to the school of their choice. It is unlikely she’ll have much more luck this year, since presidents typically are in the best position to advance their favorite programs during their first year in office. DeVos isn’t backing down yet.

DeVos could try a new school choice proposal, such as turning the $1 billion Impact Aid program into a voucher system. (Impact Aid helps districts make up for revenue lost because of a federal presence, such as a reservation or military base.) That’s something the conservative Heritage Foundation has pitched. But the Impact Aid community really doesn’t want to see this happen.

Will Congress come up with a legislative fix to save the “Dreamers” from deportation?

Last year, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, an Obama-era initiative that gave some 800,000 undocumented immigrants that came to the country as children—known as Dreamers—a chance to stay legally. Unless Congress acts, DACA will end in March, and recipients could face deportation. Some 250,000 school-age children have become DACA-eligible since President Barack Obama began the program in 2012. And about 20,000 current DACA recipients are working as teachers, the Migration Policy Institute estimates. Trump has challenged Congress to come up with a plan to protect Dreamers, and some lawmakers are pushing to get things done, but the prospects of a deal remain shaky.

What happens with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act?

Every state has turned in a plan to implement ESSA. As of late last month, 15 states and the District of Columbia, all of which filed their plans last spring, had been approved. The department is currently in the process of reviewing the 34 plans filed last fall. So far, DeVos has approved plans even if states didn’t make all of the changes the Education Department asked for. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., an ESSA architect, has expressed big concerns about this.

What’s more, states and districts are waiting to see if the department moves forward on a pilot program in the law, dealing with weighted-student funding formulas. Earlier this month, the department gave states until April 2 to apply for the law’s Innovative Assessment Pilot, which allows states to try out new types of tests in a handful of districts.

How much will DeVos be able to roll back the Education Department’s footprint?

One of the Trump administration’s top priorities is getting rid of regulations, programs, and even personnel that it describes as unnecessary or duplicative. At the beginning of last year, Congress got the ball rolling by getting rid of ESSA accountability regulations and teacher-prep regulations through the Congressional Review Act. So far, DeVos has scrapped hundreds of pieces of guidance and rules that she said were outdated or redundant.

There could be some bigger regulatory changes on the horizon. DeVos and company may delay implementation of an Obama-era rule that would require states to take a stricter approach to identifying whether their districts have wide racial or ethnic disparities in special education. She may get rid of Obama-era guidance calling on districts to ensure that discipline policies don’t have a disproportionate impact on students from certain racial and ethnic groups.

DeVos has also offered buyouts to shrink the department’s workforce.

How will education play in the midterm elections?

The party that doesn’t hold the White House typically does well in midterm congressional elections, so Democrats have a shot at retaking the House of Representatives. And there’s a slim chance they could pick up seats in the Senate. So will Democrats use K-12 issues—especially opposition to DeVos—to get voters to the polls? It’s a good bet. The party started invoking DeVos’ name in fundraising emails even before she was officially sworn in as secretary.

A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2018 edition of Education Week as What’s on the Runway for Trump, Congress on Education?


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Do Students Have What They Need? One Survey Looks to Answer That Question
Even before the pandemic started, one state started thinking about how to understand student needs better. That plan accelerated with the virus.
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Illustrations.
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week