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But Will It Be Amazing? What Donald Trump Has Said About Education

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 04, 2016 3 min read
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Real estate executive Donald Trump has taken a huge and possibly decisive step towards becoming the Republican nominee for president, after winning the Indiana GOP primary Tuesday and seeing his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, suspend his campaign.

What’s less certain? Trump’s views on education policy. He hasn’t spoken at great length about the topic at any one time, and he doesn’t have the kind of record on the issue that say, a former governor would. But over the course of the campaign, we have followed his statements about K-12. Read on for a round-up of our reporting on Trump as a presidential candidate.

Trump has baffled education wonks: Back in March, we asked a bunch of K-12 policy experts how a President Trump would handle education. For the most part, they threw up their hands.

Conservatives like Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute and Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners, for example, said they were worried that Trump might empower the federal government and not states when dealing with public schools.

Meanwhile, Carmel Martin of the left-leaning Center for American Progress said Trump would roll back important civil rights protections in education. She also called his plan to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education a dangerous and potentially very damaging one for both K-12 and higher education.

Speaking of the Education Department ... Yes, Trump has said more than once that he thinks the department either needs to be cut “way down” or eliminated altogether. However, he also claimed in a March debate that education should be one of three top priorities for the federal government. Those aren’t necessarily contradictory views, but they also don’t represent a clear platform.

He’s very clear about the Common Core State Standards, however. Trump says he hates the common core, and says he’ll get rid of them. But, thanks in part to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal government does not have the power to do that.

By contrast, Trump has praised the power of local school boards. That’s pretty unusual for a presidential candidate, Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman told me.

American kids’ test scores? They’re lousy, Trump says: In a speech earlier this year, Trump said that for the amount of money the U.S. spends on education, students’ scores on international tests are pretty bad. In fact, he said “third world” countries beat American students on tests, although that’s a questionable claim.

“The Donald” has provided money to educational causes through his charitable foundation. Some of those donations, however, are tied to his work the “Celebrity Apprentice” in which contestants directed their cash winnings to certain groups. He has given to Teach for America, though, independently of “Celebrity Apprentice.” He’s also a fan of the Police Athletic League and charities associated with New York Yankees that do work with kids.

Is there a doctor in the house? In a GOP debate in March, Trump said that Ben Carson would be “very involved in education” in Trump’s presidential administration, as my colleague Daarel Burnette II reported. Carson is a former 2016 GOP presidential hopeful and retired pediatric neurosurgeon,

Gun-free school zones? Get rid of them, Trump says. He claims they’re just “bait” for people looking to do harm to children. But contrary to Trump’s stated plans, he won’t be able to get rid of them without an act of Congress.

Some claim Trump’s rhetoric has made students feel unsafe. That’s according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which surveyed 2,000 K-12 teachers about the possible “Trump effect” on students. However, as my colleague Evie Blad noted, the survey is unscientific.

Trump has also weighed in on autism and vaccines. In a GOP debate, Trump said that autism has become an “epidemic” and said that he wants vaccines to be given to children in smaller doses over a longer period of time. That’s a reference to the claim that there’s a link between vaccines and autism, although as my colleague Christina Samuels pointed out, the former does not cause the latter.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, seen speaking at a rally in Valdosta, Ga., has yet to lay out a detailed education platform. —Andrew Harnik/AP

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