Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

How Betsy DeVos’ Teacher Grants Boost Donald Trump’s Economic Agenda

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 01, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced awhile back that she would prioritize grants that aligned with one of President Donald Trump’s signature economic initiatives. And DeVos just demonstrated a prominent example of how this is working when she announced three sets of grants focused on educator development and training.

The new grant awards, which the U.S. Department of Education, also underscore an important but sometimes overlooked shift in education policy that could take place if former Vice President Joe Biden beats Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

On Wednesday, DeVos announced awards of nearly $100 million through three grant programs aimed at improving teacher and principal effectiveness. For two of them, the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program and the Teacher Quality Partnership Program, all the awards—23 in total—went to schools and nonprofit groups that connect in some way with Opportunity Zones.

These zones are generally designed to increase economic development in underserved and distressed communities by providing tax incentives for business to invest in them. They were authorized by Republican tax legislation Trump signed into law in 2017. DeVos’ department put out its proposal last year to prioritize competitive grant proposals that involved Opportunity Zones across a range of such grant programs.

DeVos has also encouraged charter schools to open in these zones, which not surprisingly have both their fans and critics.

Under the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program, all 13 of the grants totaling $63.7 million “overlap with a Qualified Opportunity Zone,” the department said. These grants will support “performanced-based” compensation systems for teachers and principals. And all 10 of the awards under Teacher Quality Partnerships program, totaling $7.3 million, will go to projects taking place in those zones.

In addition, a dozen new Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grants adding up to $23.8 million will also place a priority on Opportunity Zones, among other things, although the department didn’t specify how many of the grants will do so. (Winners of the grants and more information can be found here.)

In a statement, DeVos said these grants are designed to change a system in which teachers “lack access to relevant professional development courses and are compensated on a step-scale ladder that treats them like cogs in a machine instead of as individuals with unique talents and interests.”

She also highlighted her department’s ongoing efforts to provide teachers vouchers for professional development programs under the federal Education Innovation and Research program.

So why did we bring up Joe Biden earlier? When contemplating what a Biden administration would mean for K-12 education, there’s often a focus on how it would represent a radical shift away from the Trump administration—and perhaps moving back towards the Obama administration—on issues like how big the federal education budget should be, charter school policy, and civil rights guidance.

But the Education Department also has significant power over what priorities their competitive grants (those that don’t just go out by a predetermined formula) support when they’re awarded. Race to the Top’s competitive grants were funded by Congress but awarded at the Obama Education Department’s discretion, for example.

It’s fair to say that a Biden administration would have different grant priorities than the Trump team. Would a Biden Education Department focus on socioeconomic integration initiatives in schools and efforts to increase teacher diversity across different types of grants? If Biden wins the election, we’ll get to see what kind of priorities his administration places on long-standing grants, as well as whether it pushes to create new grants to fund their policy agenda.

More reading: Check out our guide to what Biden and Trump have said and done about education.

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos arrives on the South Lawn for a ceremony for the signing of the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15, 2020, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.


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
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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

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

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP