Washington Update: Post-Election and Pre-Inauguration

Introduction
After the election the country entered a period of uncertainty. Trump won the electoral vote but Clinton won the popular vote. An effort was made to have recounts in several pivotal states, which was unsuccessful. Then several groups tried to convince state electors to change their vote on Monday, December 19, given the split between Electoral College state results and the popular vote. It too proved unsuccessful.

This has been followed by a period of transition speculation during transition. There has been concern over Trump's Cabinet selections and the implications for how his administration would govern, and potentially overturn legislation and regulations that were a centerpiece of Obama's eight years in office.

While much has been written about "outsiders" being selected for the Cabinet and White House staff along with Trump's campaign slogan of "drain the swamp," the fact is the swamp has not been drained nor has the group selected been made up of "outsiders." To the contrary, most selected have had experience at the federal or state government, military or inside the Beltway. The Secretary of State nominee's company led the lobbying effort to defeat sanctions against Russia, and others have been involved in trying to influence monetary policy while working in the private sector. No one is a neophyte nor naïve on how government works, but may have limited experience or exposure in government.

The Transition
Recent polling data indicates that 50 percent of Americans approve of how the transition is moving. Several experts have found it to be quite different than transitions in the past.

At Education, the transition has been fairly quiet. Little mention has been made of who is being considered for key appointments. Mum is the word. One reason is the concern to have secretary-designate Betsy DeVos confirmed without any problems. There has been some opposition. One can expect some tough questions over her education positions, and an outstanding fine. Once these hurdles are overcome then more names should surface.

Yes, there has been a flurry of people mentioned to be considered for some of the key positions. The latest include New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for either education deputy secretary or undersecretary, and former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek and Kent Talbert, former general counsel of the Department under President George W. Bush, for general counsel. Others who may be in the mix include Jeanne Allen, Andy Smarick, Gerard Robinson, Will Evers, Jim Manning, Chris Cerf, Peter Oppenheim and Brad Thomas.

Unfortunately, it is "wait and see." More names should be surfacing as we get closer to January 20, Inauguration Day. Some confirmation hearings may begin as early as the second week of January.

Daunting Deadlines Facing Congress in 2017
Republicans and president-elect Donald Trump will face a slew of tough legislative deadlines in 2017. It will be an abrupt change from 2016, when lawmakers faced few make-or-break dates except to avoid a government shutdown. Also, Democrats will need to address these dates. Some of the deadlines are:

  • March 16 is the date the debt ceiling expires, and without an extension the Treasury can no longer borrow money (see Treasuries)
  • April 15 is the date by law that Congress must pass a budget resolution for the next fiscal year. The conventional wisdom is the Republicans may try to pass the budget resolution and an extension through the fiscal year for FY2016 that will include some tax reform and a termination of the Affordable Care Act. But the latter policy change has a mountain of problems.
  • April 28 the FY 2016 Continuing Budget Resolution expires and a new one must be passed or the government will be required to shutdown.
  • April 30 marks Trump's 100th full day in office – we shall see how much he can accomplish of what he promised during the campaign in this period, given his party has control of both the House and the Senate.
  • September 30 is the end of FY2016
  • September 30 the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration expires
  • September 30 the authorization for CHIP (children's health program) expires.
  • October 1, FY2017 begins and requires a budget and appropriation so the government can stay open.
  • December 31 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Section 702) expires, and without reauthorization the nation's security apparatus will be handcuffed.

Upcoming Education Policy Agenda
Other than the dates listed above, there are several actions that are "front and center" for the Trump Administration and a Republican-majority Congress. The list includes:

  • Tax reform
  • Infrastructure legislation
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Repeal of numerous regulations promulgated during the Obama Administration – many of these are education regulations
Several legislative and policy issues will be addressed early by the new secretary and/or the first session of 115th Congress, including:
  • Immigration (includes DREAMERs' visas, and basic policy)
  • Reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
  • Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
  • Student financial assistance policies and practices – including Pell Grants and federally backed student loans. (See preview of Federal postsecondary education policy written by AASCU: www.aascu.org/policy/publications/policy-matters/election2016.pdf
  • Selected ESSA regulations (accountability, supplement not supplant, teacher prep, gainful employment)
  • Regulations on for-profit postsecondary institutions, including gainful employment
  • Civil rights rules, guidance and findings, including regulations governing use of bathrooms by transgender students
You can anticipate additional efforts focused on the use of federal dollars to private schools, vouchers/school choice, teacher evaluations, assessment, etc.

Conclusion
We will learn more over time as to the shape of the U.S. Department of Education and the key players. It will take a while for the new group to get up and running. At least a bit longer than Congress since there is carry-over of Republican leadership in both the Senate and House. Lamar Alexander will take an aggressive role to change some of the regulatory policy set by Obama as will Virginia Foxx, the new chair of the House Committee on Education and Workforce.

To exemplify the public's confusion, a poll taken in late December 2016, indicated that 52 percent of Republicans actually think Trump won the popular vote. Actually Hillary Clinton was ahead by 2.8 million votes.

The next Washington Update will have more details and a better understanding of the direction the Trump Administration will be taking in education.

SIDEBAR
Eight policy papers written to the president-elect on the future of U.S. education policy, published by the Brookings Instituion:

Memos to the president on the future of U.S. education policy
By Michael Hansen and Jon Valant
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/01/04/memos-to-the-president-on-the-future-of-u-s-education-policy/

A principled federal role in PreK-12 education
by Douglas Harris, Helen F. Ladd, Marshall S. Smith, and Martin R. West
https://www.brookings.edu/research/a-principled-federal-role-in-prek-12-education/

Special education
by Thomas Hehir
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/14/memo-special-education

Improving the teacher workforce
by Pam Grossman and Susanna Loeb
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/09/memo-improving-the-teacher-workforce

Improving and equalizing high school and college graduation rates for all students
by Kelli Parmley and Marshall (Mike) Smith
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/15/memo-improving-and-equalizing-high-school-and-college-graduation-rates-for-all-students

Powering education improvement and innovation while protecting student privacy
by Dan Goldhaber and Aimee Rogstad Guidera
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/16/memo-powering-education-improvement-and-innovation-while-protecting-student-privacy

Improving student achievement by meeting children's comprehensive needs
by Joan Wasser Gish and Mary Walsh
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/12/memo-improving-student-achievement-by-meeting-childrens-comprehensive-needs

Federal school finance policy
by Martin West and Nora Gordon
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/08/memo-federal-school-finance-policy

Career and technical education
by Robert Schwartz
www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/12/13/memo-career-and-technical-education

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