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What the 2024 GOP Platform Says About K-12 and What It Would Mean If Trump Wins

A breakdown of the platform’s 9 key education policy planks
By Libby Stanford — July 10, 2024 7 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
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Former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party would push for universal school choice, expand parental rights over education, end teacher tenure, and prohibit transgender girls from playing girls’ sports if they win the White House and majorities in Congress in the 2024 election.

The Republican Party’s platform committee released the party’s 2024 platform on July 8, and formal adoption is expected at the party’s upcoming national convention, which kicks off July 15.

While elected officials aren’t bound to follow it, the document serves as the official policy agenda for a potential second Trump term and for Republicans in Congress.

As it relates to K-12 schools, the platform mimics much of the rhetoric Trump and other conservative politicians have used repeatedly in recent years, championing parents’ rights and criticizing schools for teaching “gender ideology” and critical race theory. The party pledges in the platform’s preamble, in all caps, to cut federal funding to “ANY SCHOOL PUSHING CRITICAL RACE THEORY, RADICAL GENDER IDEOLOGY, AND OTHER INAPPROPRIATE RACIAL, SEXUAL, OR POLITICAL CONTENT” and promises to “KEEP MEN OUT OF WOMEN’S SPORTS.”

The platform’s education section outlines nine K-12 positions to “cultivate great K-12 schools, ensure safe learning environments free from political meddling, and restore Parental Rights.”

Many echo priorities outlined in far greater detail in Project 2025, a 900-page conservative policy agenda created by the conservative Washington think tank the Heritage Foundation that would scale back the federal government’s role in education to that of a “statistics-gathering agency that disseminates information to the states.”

Trump has tried to distance himself from that initiative over the past week, saying he has “no idea who is behind it” and that some of the proposals “are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal.” The Biden campaign has brought up Project 2025 repeatedly, saying it should “scare every single American.”

See Also

Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Democrats are using the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 agenda to show what could happen in a Trump presidency while the former president distances himself from it.
George Walker IV/AP
Federal Project 2025: What It Is and What It Means for K-12 If Trump Wins
Libby Stanford, July 8, 2024
4 min read

Here’s a breakdown of the nine planks of the Republicans’ education platform:

1. End teacher tenure, adopt merit pay, and allow “various publicly supported educational models”

Merit pay, in which teacher salaries and bonuses are determined at least in part based on student performance, has traditionally been a Republican priority, though it likely reached peak momentum during the Obama administration, when the Democratic president prioritized experimentation with the model with the help of economic stimulus funds.

It remains highly controversial among teachers, and research on early incentive programs showed they had little effect on student performance. Research on later programs has shown the strategy can help with recruitment and retention—improving overall quality of the teacher workforce—when incentive pay amounts are large enough. The incentives tend not to make individual teachers more effective, however, National Council for Teacher Quality President Heather Peske told Education Week last year.

Teacher tenure, which typically entitles a teacher to due process before they can be fired, has also long been a Republican target, with GOP politicians criticizing the system as one that allows bad teachers to remain in classrooms.

Teacher tenure and pay policies are determined at the state and district levels.

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Illustration of workers calculating labor cost at a giant calculator
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty

2. Implement universal school choice in every state

Universal school choice, which allow parents and families to use public funds to pay for private school tuition and sometimes other educational expenses outside of public schools, has swept across Republican-led states in the past few years. According to Education Week’s private school choice tracker, 12 states have programs that are accessible to all students or are on track to be universally accessible.

At the federal level, the GOP proposes allowing families to use tax-advantaged 529 accounts—traditionally used to help families save for college—to cover the cost of homeschooling. Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee this week advanced a bill that would achieve this, but it is unlikely to become law with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House. The 2017 tax cut package that Trump signed into law expanded 529 accounts so they could cover K-12 private school tuition.

3. Support career education

Career preparation has become a popular policy priority for both Republicans and Democrats in recent years, especially as the public has come to view it as a higher priority for public schools than college preparation. The Republican platform proposes “supporting project-based learning and schools that offer meaningful work experience.” The federal government funds career and technical education programs through its Perkins V grant, which provides $1.4 billion annually for schools.

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Students in the auto technology class work on a vehicle at the Regional Occupational Center.
Students work on a vehicle in an auto technology class at the Regional Occupational Center in Bakersfield, Calif.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week

4. Allow immediate suspension of “violent students”

The platform proposes a strict approach to school discipline, saying the party will “advocate for immediate suspension of violent students” and “support hardening schools to help keep violence away from places of learning.” Such policies are determined at the state and local levels.

Student misbehavior has increased following the pandemic, but many educators say their schools are relying less on exclusionary discipline like suspension and expulsion and more on “restorative justice,” which focuses on repairing harm. Black students have traditionally disproportionately been subjected to suspension and expulsion.

But there has been backlash to the shift away from exclusionary discipline. Alabama lawmakers this year passed a “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” with support from the Alabama Education Association that allows teachers to remove disruptive students from their classrooms.

The “hardening” of schools refers to traditional Republican reactions to school shootings, such as allowing teachers to carry guns or requiring that schools post armed guards.

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Image of a student sitting outside of a doorway.
DigitalVision

5. Elevate “parents’ rights”


The GOP platform promotes “parents’ rights,” referring to state policies that generally give parents the right to review curricula and opt their students out of lessons they don’t agree with, while restricting instruction on race and gender. House Republicans passed a federal parents’ bill of rights last year, but it has stalled.

6. Target “CRT and gender indoctrination”

The party says it will defund schools that “engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.” Republicans have often labeled school diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; policies that accommodate transgender and nonbinary students; and efforts to teach about diverse cultures and the realities of slavery in U.S. history as “indoctrination” and critical race theory. But there is no evidence that teaching students about critical race theory, which is an academic framework taught at the university level, is widely prevalent in K-12 schools.

Seventeen states have codified state-level bans on the teaching of the concept, and the anti-CRT push has led teachers to decide on their own to limit discussions of political and social issues, even outside of those states.

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States Tracker Map: Where Critical Race Theory Is Under Attack
Sarah Schwartz, June 11, 2021
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7. Promote a “love of country” in schools

The platform calls for an “authentic civics education.” Specifically, it calls for reinstating the advisory 1776 Commission, a 2020 Trump administration project to “restore understanding of the greatness of the American founding.” The Biden administration eliminated the task force.

8. Expand the role of religion in K-12 schools

The GOP platform says Republicans will “champion the First Amendment Right to Pray and Read the Bible in school.” State-level Republicans recently have been testing the limits of the church-state divide. Most recently, Oklahoma state Superintendent Ryan Walters ordered educators to teach the Bible, and Lousiana passed a law requiring schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

9. Close the U.S. Department of Education

On his campaign website, Trump doesn’t suggest eliminating the federal Education Department, but the GOP platform does and it is the primary K-12 proposal in Project 2025. Republicans have suggested eliminating the agency since its inception in 1980, but the idea has yet to gain any real traction in Congress or the White House.

Platform targets Biden’s Title IX revision

Though not labeled as a K-12 priority, the GOP platform also promises to “keep men out of women’s sports,” a reference to the Biden administration’s recent rewrite of Title IX regulations.

The revision says the landmark sex discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, providing LGBTQ+ students with new protections and requiring schools to allow transgender and nonbinary students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. Twenty-six states have sued the U.S. Department of Education over the regulations, and they are currently on hold in 14 states.

The Biden administration has also proposed—but not yet finalized—a Title IX revision that would prohibit schools from barring all transgender students from playing sports that align with their gender identity. The proposed athletics rule would allow schools to restrict certain students from playing sports that align with their gender identity if it creates concerns over competitive fairness or safety. The administration has not released a timeline for when the athletics revision will be finalized.

See Also

Misy Sifre, 17, and others protest for transgender rights at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, March 25, 2022. On Tuesday, July 2, 2024, a federal judge in Kansas blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states, including Utah and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation.
Misy Sifre, 17, and others protest for transgender rights at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, March 25, 2022. On Tuesday, July 2, 2024, a federal judge in Kansas blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states, including Utah and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation. The case is one of eight legal challenges to those expanded legal protections contained in new Title IX regulations issued by the Biden administration.
Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP
Federal Which States Have Sued to Stop Biden's Title IX Rule?
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