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Education Funding

Trump’s Pick to Lead Budget Office Has Backed School Choice, Anti-NCLB Bills

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 22, 2016 2 min read
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President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, South Carolina GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney, could have a significant impact on federal public school policy in a few ways. So what K-12 bills has he supported since his election to Congress in 2010?

First we should point out that Mulvaney, who has the reputation of being a budget hawk and supports a federal Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, would help lead the development of federal budgets under Trump. As the head of OMB, Mulvaney would also oversee agency performance and review federal regulations.

Mulvaney doesn’t have an extensive record when it comes to education legislation in Congress. And on his official website, he doesn’t list education on his “Issues” page. But here are a few bills he’s gotten behind:

  • He co-sponsored the Local Education Freedom Act of 2016 with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. This bill would have created education savings accounts at the state level. State education agencies would have been required to transfer funds to these ESAs equivalent to their average per-pupil funding level for schools. Eligible expenses for these accounts would have included tuition, textbooks, and testing fees for exams such as Advance Placement tests.
  • Mulvaney co-sponsored the SOAR Reauthorization Act, which dealt with the Opportunity Scholarship Program in the District of Columbia. Passed by the House in 2015, the legislation would have prohibited the U.S. Department of Education from capping the number of students eligible for these private school vouchers. It also would have given preference in scholarship awards to students who previously attended low-performing District of Columbia schools. The voucher program has long been a favorite of Republicans in Congress, although President Barack Obama’s administration has been more skeptical of its impact.
  • The Local Control of Education Act, introduced in 2015, was also co-sponsored by Mulvaney. The bill would have prohibited the federal government “from directly or indirectly mandating, directing, controlling, incentivizing, or conditioning federal support” for the Common Core State Standards, as well as any test or curriculum. The bill would have amended the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to apply those prohibitions to Obama Race to the Top grants.
  • The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (or “A Plus”) Act, which Mulvaney co-sponsored and was introduced in the House in 2015, would have allowed states to essentially opt out of federal accountability mandates for public schools. (Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida have backed similar legislation.) The act represented lawmakers’ pushback to the accountability regime of the No Child Left Behind Act.
  • As for the Every Student Succeeds Act? Mulvaney was one of 64 House members to vote no on the bill.

Mulvaney wouldn’t be directly handling education legislation in the next Congress. But given his recent track record, Mulvaney at least seems to strongly agree with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, about the importance and power of school choice.

Photo: Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., questions Mylan CEO Heather Bresch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 21, as she testifies before the House Oversight Committee hearing on EpiPen price increases. Alex Brandon/ AP Photo

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