Where is the Nation and Education Headed?
- By Fritz Edelstein
- March 1st, 2017
We have entered a new era in education policy,
programs and practice. Under President Donald
Trump education will be altering its direction and
emphasis slightly from the focus of the last six presidents. This
change will not be without controversy.
During the last 25 years there has been a growing general consensus
about education change, reform and policy among Republicans
and Democrats at the national level with a few differences.
A visible divide began over the federal policy and role during the
Obama Administration. It became even more visible during the
reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,
now entitled Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The divide widened
even more during the presidential campaign and the recent
senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Education. There
seems to be no end to the divide and polarization of strategies for
educational change and improvement.
Confirming a New Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as the new U.S. Secretary of
Education, but what made it interesting — two republican senators
on the committee voted to move the nomination to the senate
floor, but then stated they will vote “no” on the Senate floor. This
made the vote 50-50. So for the first time in the history of the cabinet
confirmation process, the president of the senate had to break
the tie. Vice President Pence did so and DeVos was confirmed.
Picking a Secretary and the Education Transition
The new White House Advisor on Education is Jason Botel.
He has an interesting background and many who know him were
surprised that he took the job. Jim Manning continues to lead the
transition at the department even after DeVos’ confirmation. New
political employees are working at the department, but it is not
clear if they are temporary or permanent employees. No names
have surfaced for the key positions in the agency at this time. One
reason is the delayed confirmation of the secretary.
President Trump during the campaign and congressional
republicans chairing the two education authorizing committees
stated that education regulations finalized and promulgated during
the last months of the Obama Administration will be blocked
and changed to follow the statute. The committee leaders have
used the Congressional Review Act to negate many of the regulations.
Congress has negated two ESSA education regulations so far,
which are Accountability and Teacher Preparation. One would not
be surprised that several others will face the same fate.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated in a letter dated Feb.
13, 2017, to states that she’s sticking with the April and September
deadlines for states to hand in their plans under the Every Student
In a letter recently sent to chief state school officers,she
provided clarity on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation,
in light of the actions related to the postponement of
the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.
The letter emphasizes that states should continue to move forward
and that the department will work to ensure that state education
leaders have the state and local flexibility that congress intended.
States should continue to follow the timeline for developing and
submitting their plans for review and approval, building on the
work they have already completed. The department will provide
further guidance on the state plan requirements by Mar. 13, 2017.
Possible Changes at the Department
DeVos vows to go after employees who would “subvert” her mission.
In an interview with conservative news site Townhall, she said
she wouldn’t be surprised if there are Education Department employees
who would “try to subvert the mission of this organization and
this department.” The statement was in response to a question about
whether the Obama administration “populated” the federal agency
with sympathizers who will “frustrate whatever the Trump administration
wants to do.” Expect more in the weeks and months to come.
In the weeks to come we will learn more about the approach Secretary
DeVos will be taking and who will be some of the key players
in the agency. Talk about abolishing the department has increased
in recent weeks given Representative Massie’s introduction of
legislation to eliminate the agency. Definitely it will be an interesting
period of time. Expect controversy and division, and definitely different
in style and approach from what many of us are accustom.
With any new administration and new secretary, it is a wait
and see game.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.
Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. To subscribe, write firstname.lastname@example.org.