Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has picked Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to be on his presidential transition team for education, according to multiple sources.
Evers served as an assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Education from 2007 to 2009, and also was an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Robinson served as Florida’s education commissioner from 2011 to 2012, and has also served as Virginia’s education secretary and as the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Neither the Trump transition team nor the Trump campaign responded to requests for comment. Both Evers and Robinson referred questions about their positions to the Trump campaign.
Trump’s Growing Interest in Education
The Trump campaign has been creating a decent amount of education-related news recently, after several months in which Trump mostly made only cursory mentions of the topic. On Sept. 8, Trump outlined his plan to create a $20 billion federal school choice program for students in poverty, and also backed merit pay for teachers. And on Sept. 13, he unveiled a suite of child-care policies that include six weeks of paid maternity leave and tax credits for child-care costs, among others.
Last month, he hired Rob Goad to serve as his education adviser—Goad is a staffer for Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and has worked extensively on K-12 choice issues for the Indiana Republican.
Evers has an extensive background in academic standards. He was appointed by two former California governors, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to serve on two separate standards commissions. And he’s been a big critic of the Common Core State Standards. In a 2015 op-ed for Education Week, for example, Evers said advocates of the common core were subverting a key aspect of the American civic system:
The common core’s promoters are endeavoring to suppress competitive federalism. The common core’s rules and its curriculum guidance are the governing rules of a cartel. The common core’s promoters and their federal facilitators wanted a cartel that would override competitive federalism and shut down the curriculum alternatives that federalism would allow.
He’s also written about struggling schools, mathematics, and school funding, among other topics. Evers has served on a county board of education in California, where he’s also been on the board of directors for a charter school. Trump has consistently opposed the common core.
Robinson resigned as the Florida chief four years ago after a difficult year in office. He left the job not long after a controversy surrounding a precipitous drop in proficiency rates on the state writing exam—the state board responded by lowering the pass score on the test. Some also criticized the state education department’s handling of Florida’s A-F accountability system on Robinson’s watch, and how he handled English-language learners with respect to A-F school grades.
At AEI, Robinson focuses on school choice, regulatory issues, and the role of for-profit institutions in education, among other topics. In an August op-ed for U.S. News and World Report, Robinson argued for a new set of priorities to drive education, including entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is the antithesis of the bureaucratic model that has been a hallmark of the “one best system” for more than 100 years. The time is ripe for more entrepreneurial ways to deliver teaching and learning in pre-K-20 education. This endeavor, however, requires a herculean shift in values. An entrepreneurial approach sees a problem as an opportunity; a bureaucratic approach sees an opportunity as a problem.
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H, last June. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)