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Donald Trump Wins Presidency, Brings Uncertainty to Big Education Issues

By Andrew Ujifusa — November 09, 2016 3 min read
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Republican nominee Donald Trump has been elected president, according to the Associated Press. The real estate executive has largely ignored education during his successful presidential bid, except for a $20 billion federal investment in school choice he announced in September. And there are a lot of unanswered questions about what his administration will mean for public schools.

Having never held elected office, Trump’s K-12 record was already relatively thin compared to some of his opponents when he began running last year. He’s mostly discussed public schools in sound bites, claiming that he would get rid of the Common Core State Standards (which aren’t a federal program) as well as gun-free school zones.

And his election could represent a serious threat to the U.S. Department of Education, which he has said he’d either drastically cut or eliminate altogether. Plus, key Obama-era regulations governing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which many Republicans have said they dislike, could also be rescinded by Trump.

Trump pitched that $20 billion school choice program as leverage for states to direct more students to the private, charter, magnet, and traditional public schools of their choice. He says it would help disadvantaged students in urban areas leave low-performing schools. It’s designed, ultimately, to leverage over $100 billion in additional state investments in choice programs.

However, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the education community about whether such a plan, which would rely on federal money shifted over from other programs, could get serious traction in Congress.

Here are a few other highlights from Trump’s remarks about education on the campaign trail:

  • He thinks that American spends far too much on schools in exchange for poor scores on international tests.
  • Trump wants to cap periodic student loan repayments at 12.5 percent of income, and grant loan forgiveness to borrowers after 15 years under certain conditions.
  • He also unveiled a series of proposals to improve early-childhood programs, including a tax credit available for low-income families to use on “child enrichment activities, six weeks of guaranteed paid maternity leave, and new incentives for employers to provide on-site daycare.
  • Trump has criticized “education bureaucrats” for being protected by politicians like Clinton at the expense of poor students, although he hasn’t specified who he considers to be a part of that group.

Who Trump picks for education secretary could also be a key question—if he keeps the department at all. Earlier this year, he mentioned that his one-time GOP rival for the presidency, Ben Carson, would have a key role in education in his administration. But he hasn’t elaborated on this idea. And Trump surrogate Carl Palladino said earlier this month that Trump could pick someone from outside the education sphere to be his secretary. If he decides to stick with someone in education, he could go with Gerard Robinson, a former Florida State chief who has been advising him.

In political terms, his victory represents a crushing blow to the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Both enthusiastically endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and AFT President Randi Weingarten has been particularly vigorous in her support for Clinton and denunciations of Trump. Both unions also argued that Trump’s conduct throughout the election contributed to an increase in bullying and a more negative environment in schools, although there’s no real data to back that up.

Find out more about Trump’s views on education here. And click here for a Politics K-12 video discussion of Trump’s views on education, as well as Hillary Clinton’s.

President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally on Nov. 9 in New York. --John Locher/AP

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