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President Trump Has Ordered a Review of the Federal Government's Role in Education Policy

United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has a new assignment from President Trump’s desk and is tasked with reviewing the federal government’s role in the K-12 education system.

The president signed the executive order last Wednesday, requiring a study to determine if and how the federal government has overstepped its boundaries in shaping local school systems. DeVos and her senior counselor, Robert Eitel, will review education policy and guidelines that are believed to not be consistent with federal law, which could lead to them being modified. Eitel has been outspoken with his criticism of higher education regulations and is somewhat of a controversial figure as he previously worked for a for-profit college company that recently reached a settlement in a lawsuit over deceptive student-loan practices. While the executive order doesn’t change the powers that DeVos already has, it could pave the way for proposed changes and the overturning of laws that would go through a legal regulatory process.

The overall goal according to Rob Goad, a senior Education Department official, is to ensure that local educators have the final word on how their schools are run and what is being taught in the classroom. “The review will be conducted within 300 days and its findings will be published in a report,” Goad told The New York Times.

Republican lawmakers have long argued that the federal government has had too much involvement in dictating public education and railed against what they saw as the Obama adminstration’s push for states to adopt the Common Core academic standards.

President Trump and his supporters are lauding the review as a step in taking educational policy out of the fed’s hands and giving it back to the states. “For too long the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments,” Trump said at a press conference. “The result has been education that spends more and achieves far, far, far less.”

The move was praised by the Center for Education Reform which hopes it’s a sign President Trump will do more to continue to build on the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 which transferred some authority in public schools from the federal government to the states. Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform, said in a statement she hopes the review will shed some light on “how much oversight occurs as a result of bureaucracy.”

The Department of Education under the Obama administration was highly focused on mandating aggressive civil rights policies for public schools, such as allowing transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identification and how schools handle discipline cases. These regulations were met with both praise and criticism, with many conservatives arguing that the federal government was overstepping its bounds.

Opponents of DeVos and an education system under Trump have been vocal about their fears concerning the rights of all students in schools, particularly those who identify as transgender. In February the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students are allowed to choose to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity. DeVos supported the move echoing the belief that it was an issue “best handled at state and local level.”

While the executive order for the review undoubtedly has some concerned about how DeVos will use the review to tailor her own plans for education, many in Washington feel it will have little impact in the big scheme of things, toting it as a way for Trump to boost approval in his own party within his first 100 days.

“The bottom line is that the law is still the law, and an executive order can override that,” said Kelly McManus, director of Washington think tank the Education Trust.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

 

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