With the election now in the rear view mirror, what’s ahead for education and science education in the new Administration?
Short answer, it’s too early to tell. During the campaign, education was largely ignored, so the education priorities for the new Administration are still a work in progress. Both the House and Senate remained in Republican hands, making it easier under a one-party rule to advance key Republican priorities under the new President-elect.
Politico is reporting that key policy plans for the first 100 days in the new Trump Administration would include scraping regulations from the Obama Administration on climate change, immigration, Wall Street, and restrictions on gun sales; proposing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild highways, tunnels, bridges and airports; repealing Obamacare, backing out from trade deals, such as the TPP; and building a wall at the border.
The transition team is in overdrive, and a favorite parlor game in Washington D.C. this time of year is speculating on players on the new Administration team. President-elect Trump has vowed to “drain the swamp,” but the Trump transition team is apparently leaning toward veterans from the Reagan and Bush presidencies to help craft policy and fill key positions.
(NSTA spearheaded efforts among nine STEM education groups and created a transition document addressing how the federal government must continue to make strategic investments in K–12 STEM education. Read NSTA Executive Director David Evans blog and the transition document for STEM education, which was recently sent to the Trump transition team.)
Here are the issues that are emerging and what we are watching:
President-elect Trump has voiced support for eliminating the Department of Education and expanding school choice by creating a $20 billion block grant. One to watch is the school choice legislation—first introduced in 2014 by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), current chair of the Senate education committee (and author of the Every Student Succeeds Act)—that would allow states to create a $2,100 scholarship from existing federal funds that would follow the children to the school of their choice.
During the campaign Trump has also said he’d get rid of the Education Department, a promise also made by previous GOP administrations. Many expect he will downsize the ED, which was expected anyway in response to the new federal education law which puts more decisions in the hands of state and district leaders.
The President-elect has also called for eliminating the Common Core State Standards, but the new federal law prohibits the education secretary from prescribing or interfering with state academic standards.
As mentioned earlier, President-elect Trump is expected to use executive authority to undo hundreds of Obama’s regulations on energy, taxes, and health care so expect changes to the regulations being proposed to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Education Secretary John B. King Jr. has proposed strong regulations on accountability and the Title I supplement-not-supplant language, regulations which leading Republicans have called an intrusion into local schools and classrooms and an overreach by the Department. Aides to Sen. Alexander have told media outlets this past week that the U.S. Department of Education will be “appropriately diminished,” and Sen. Alexander has said he expects the President-elect to ensure the new law is implemented as written and anticipates that regulations will be overturned.
Another candidate for the regulatory chopping block: the Obama Administration’s controversial teacher preparation regulations.
Some changes on Capitol Hill that will affect education next year: House education chair John Kline (R-MN) retired this year, so Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who has served on the committee for 11 years, will likely become chair of the House education panel. She is a vocal critic of the Department of Education and for reducing the role of the federal government in education. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) returns as ranking Democrat.
Sen. Lamar Alexander will likely continue as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will likely be ranking Democrat. As you will recall, these two lawmakers came together last year for the bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Up next year will be reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and legislation dealing with career and technical education (Perkins).
And finally, not surprisingly, the science community is reacting strongly to the election of Trump, (read more about his plans for science in the Presidential Science Debate 2016), some articles of interest are below.
Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.
Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at email@example.com or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.