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How Do Trump’s K-12 Campaign Promises Hold Up a Year After His Election?

By Alyson Klein — November 07, 2017 3 min read
President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during his election night rally on Nov. 9 in New York.
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President Donald Trump was elected one year ago Wednesday, promising a huge new school choice initiative, a slimmed down—or nonexistent—U.S. Department of Education, the end of the Common Core State Standards, new tax incentives to cover child-care costs, and more.

So how are those campaign pledges coming one year after Trump’s upset presidential victory?

Here’s a score card:

Vouchers and School Choice

The campaign promise: In his one and only campaign speech on K-12, Trump pledged to create a brand-new, $20 billion public and private school initiative, offering vouchers of up to $12,000 per student. Trump did not say where the money would come from.

The reality: Trump picked Betsy DeVos, a lifelong school choice advocate, as his education secretary, but that doesn’t mean the issue has a ton of momentum. Trump never did lay-out a $20 billion school choice proposal. And Congress rebuffed both the administration’s request for a $250 million voucher program and its pitch for a $1 billion public school choice program. And the GOP tax overhaul bill recently introduced in Congress doesn’t include the new tax credit scholarship DeVos was said to be seeking behind the scenes. The tax bill would, however, allow families to save up to $10,000 a year for private K-12 tuition through 529 plans, which currently are a college-savings vehicle under the tax code. And the spending bills for next school year pending in both the House and Senate would boost funding on charter schools by at least $25 million. That’s not as much as the $167 million the Trump administration asked for in its budget request, but it’s something.

Fate of the Education Department

The campaign promise: Trump pledged to get rid of the department or cut it “way, way down.”

The reality: Trump hasn’t nixed the department. In fact, he named an education secretary, a deputy secretary, and has moved to fill other key positions. At the same time, though, he sought to cut $9 billion from the Education Department’s nearly $70 billion budget, a 13 percent cut, although it’s unclear if Congress will be willing to go along with a cut of that magnitude. And DeVos recently announced plans to get rid of more than 100 rules that the Trump administration says are “outdated” or duplicative.

Ending the Common Core State Standards

The campaign promise: Trump called the common core standards, which were developed through a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, a “disaster.” He said he’d get rid of them.

The reality: Common core is still alive and well and on the books in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Some states have officially ditched Common Core but kept in place standards that are substantially similar. It’s worth noting that Trump couldn’t have kept his promise to kill common core even if he’d wanted to. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed before Trump was elected, specifically bars the feds from telling states which standards they can or can’t use.

Increase Tax Credits for Child Care

The campaign promise: Trump said he wanted to offer working women—but not men—six weeks of guaranteed maternity leave. He also wanted to allow lower-income families to place money from the Earned Income Tax Credit into accounts for “child enrichment activities,” including private school tuition. And he wanted to allow some families to deduct child-care costs from their taxes and create new dependent-care savings accounts.

The reality: None of these ideas made it into the GOP tax overhaul bill introduced last week. (That could change during the legislative process.) The bill does hike the child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600. And it would create a new $300 dependent-care tax credit. But it would also get rid of accounts that parents can use to put up to $5,000 away for annual child-care expenses, pre-tax.

End DACA protections for so-called “Dreamers”

The campaign promise: Trump said he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that gives protection to an estimated 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.”

The reality: Last month, Trump acted on this campaign pledge, announcing a “wind-down” of DACA. Congress has until March 5 to pass new legislation to allow hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to remain in the country. That’s something lawmakers have tried and failed to do for more than a decade.