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Urgent: 3 reasons to track Trump’s latest education moves

A new executive order aims to review past education policies and identify federal overreach.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to limit the federal government’s role in U.S. education and to return much of that control to states.

The order directs Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to conduct a 300-day review of K-12 education programs. She then will compile a report indicating which programs or actions overreached. DeVos also is an advocate for local control of education.

Many of Trump’s supporters have long denounced the federal government’s role in education.

“In 2015, there was a consensus that No Child Left Behind needed to be fixed and, remarkably, there was a consensus on how to fix it: Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement,” said Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “Parents and teachers should welcome the president’s commitment to ensuring that the Education Department is faithfully executing the education law as Congress wrote it–putting states and local communities back in charge of their classrooms.”

“For too long, the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments. The result has been education that spends more and achieves far, far, far less,” Trump said in remarks before signing the order. “My administration has been working to reverse this federal power grab and give power back to families, cities, states. Give power back to localities.”

(Next page: 3 reasons the executive order matters for U.S. schools)

Here’s why the executive order matters:

  • It could have a significant impact on the Every Student Succeeds Act, President Obama’s education law that replaced No Child Left Behind and shifted more power back to states, as well as the Common Core State Standards. The standards, which are just that–standards, and not a national curriculum–were adopted by most states, but Republicans have long criticized them and some states have challenged the standards and withdrawn support (Washington Post).
  • During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to pull back the federal government’s role in education and allow states to more fully govern their school districts. But some critics wonder if this order will improve things for students, or if the move is more about building up the administration’s accomplishments in its first 100 days (CNN).
  • The review also raises red flags among those who say they are alarmed that the U.S. Department of Education’s “watchdog” role could be reduced, noting that successful states need the department’s support, and struggling states need to be pushed to improve (The New York Times).

“Previous administrations have wrongfully forced states and schools to comply with federal whims and dictate what our kids are taught. But we know that local communities do it best and know it best,” Trump said. “The time has come to empower parents and teachers to make the decisions that help their students achieve success. That’s what this executive order is all about. So important.”

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Laura Ascione

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