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Trump Towers Over Education: How His Candidacy Is Already Affecting Federal Policy

Although Donald Trump has mostly avoided impolitic statements concerning America’s schools, Republicans who care about education are hardly protected from Hurricane Donald: the tumult of his candidacy and distant prospect of his presidency already has an impact on party strategy for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation’s new K-12 education law.  

Think back to November 2015, when Congress approved the law. It was a simpler time — or at least more naïve. Trump was leading in the polls, but it was widely believed he had no chance of winning. A safe establishment choice, like Sen. Marco Rubio or Gov. Jeb Bush, would ultimately emerge as the party’s nominee.

Party leaders believed that if implementation of ESSA under the Obama administration failed to meet conservatives’ hopes, they would have at least a fighting chance of electing a reasonable Republican to steer the law going forward.  

Those same Republicans are scrambling to shape the rules for implementing the law, now, despite frequent opposition from Obama Education Secretary John King. Instead of playing ball, King has issued regulations on school accountability and finance that aim to help poor students but also infuriate congressional Republicans. They believe King’s directives violate the law, which is premised on reducing the role of the federal government in education.