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Donald Trump Praises Betsy DeVos and Urges More Local Control Over Education

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 04, 2017 2 min read
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President Donald Trump repeated a few promises related to the Common Core State Standards and education governance from his 2016 campaign, and also praised Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, at a town hall of business executives in Washington on Tuesday.

In response to a question about college- and career readiness at the event, Trump sharply criticized the academic performance of students New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, while also praising charter schools. “I don’t call it an experiment any more. It’s far beyond an experiment,” he said of charters. (More on recent academic performance of students in Chicago and L.A. here.)

He then moved on to one of his key priorities for education: shifting control from federal to state and local leaders. You can watch video of Trump’s remarks on schools beginning at about the 2-hour, 2-minute mark in the video below:

“We have to bring education more local. We can’t be managing education from Washington,” Trump said, adding that when he goes to states to discuss education policy, “they want to run their school programs locally. And they’ll do a much better job [than Washington].” He added that many federal bureaucrats can’t match state officials’ grasp of what their schools need.

Boosting local decision making power was one of Trump’s major themes when he discussed K-12 education during his presidential bid, which he didn’t do very often. (Neither did his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.) The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in late 2015, returns many key education policy decisions to state and local officials. And DeVos has already pledged to give state leaders a lot of leeway in choosing how to hold schools accountable under ESSA.

At the same time, Trump also told the audience, “We’re going to spend a lot of money and a lot of expertise, we’re going to have great talent when it comes to education, because there’s nothing more important than education.”

Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget would cut federal spending on education by about 13 percent, reducing the U.S. Department of Education’s budget to about $59 billion. His spending plan would eliminate state grants for teachers’ professional development, as well as support for after-school and extended-learning programs. Trump’s proposed budget would boost federal grants to charters by 50 percent, up to $500 million.

Trump also touched on the Common Core State Standards, saying that it ran counter to his desire to give local officials more power over education: “We have to end it.”

The president repeatedly stated his desire to end the common core during his presidential campaign. And his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, reiterated the president’s intention to end the common core earlier this year, after Trump took over as president. However, the common core isn’t governed by federal law, and the president can’t unilaterally get rid of the standards—Congress could pass a law banning the standards outright, but lawmakers have shown no interest in doing so.

And he singled out DeVos for being highly respected and for dealing with difficult issues.

“She’s got one of the toughest jobs of any of our secretaries,” Trump said.

A recent national poll found that DeVos, who experienced a rocky confirmation process, has relatively low approval ratings compared to other top Trump officials.