Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, one of the foremost champions for school choice in Congress, said he’s excited for the “big and bold” education plans he foresees under President-elect Donald Trump, particularly when it comes to school choice. And he also left the door open for serving as Trump’s education secretary.
“I don’t know if I’m being considered. But I would be honored to serve,” Messer told us, “and I share many of the same priorities for America’s education system.”
Asked about strong candidates for the secretary’s job, Messer mentioned two Hoosiers, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, as well as Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who separately is helping the Trump transition team on education issues.
“There’s a host of folks that could do the job and do it well,” Messer said.
But Messer is clearly excited about Trump’s proposal to reallocate $20 billion in federal dollars to promote school choice in states. It’s designed to help leverage up to $100 billion in separate state investments in programs to allow students to attend private, magnet, charter, and traditional public schools of their choosing. Messer emphasized the 11 million poor students the initiative is designed to help—and also praised Trump’s attention to the issue during the election season.
“Donald Trump spoke more about school choice on the campaign trail than any other candidate in our nation’s history,” Messer said.
You might remember that Messer’s staffer, Rob Goad, worked for the Trump campaign as its K-12 policy adviser.
Messer has been one of the foremost champions for K-12 choice in Congress. In fact, last year, he sought to allow children receiving federal Title I dollars for disadvantaged students to use that money at the public and private schools of their choice. That plan, however, was not included in what became the Every Student Succeeds Act. Asked about the viability of a similar plan under Trump given that failure, Messer said that a Trump plan wouldn’t have to follow the exact same blueprint as his ESSA-related pitch.
“There are billions and billions of dollars spent by the federal government on education. We can certainly find the money to spend on that program,” Messer said, adding then when it comes to how such a program could work, “There are many options. I don’t think anyone has decided if Title I is the best option.” (Previously, Messer has expressed anxiety about the possibility of a federal “Department of School Choice.”)
You might also remember Messer as an advocate for overhauling the nation’s privacy laws that govern student data. He’s reached across the aisle to work on privacy legislation with Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado. Messer told us he’s optimistic that lawmakers made important strides on the issue during this session of Congress, including the release of a software industry pledge regarding student-data privacy.
“There’s reason to be optimistic because the American people want to see our students protected in the classroom,” Messer said. “We’ve built a foundation for this bill to become a reality in the next Congress.”
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