The election of Republican Donald Trump as president, coupled
with the GOP’s success in retaining control of Congress for two
more years, appears likely to reshape federal education policy in
significant ways, from preschool to college. Already, Republican
lawmakers have moved to repeal key Obama administration
regulations on school accountability and teacher preparation. The
Trump administration made waves by backing away from Obama-era
guidance for schools on bathroom access for transgender students.
And early signals suggest expanding school choice will be the
president’s top educational priority, one that could find favor
among GOP lawmakers.
Even before the 2016 election, the bipartisan rewrite of the No
Child Left Behind Act handed states and localities significantly
greater control over school accountability and other aspects of
education. In 2017, all states are revamping their accountability
systems, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of
Education now led by Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Beyond the K-12 level, Congress is overdue in reauthorizing the
Higher Education Act. And the Trump administration is widely
expected to pivot away from Obama priorities such as Title IX
enforcement on sexual assault and increased oversight of
for-profit colleges. Other issues that may gain favor include new
strategies to pay for college, such as “risk sharing”
arrangements, as well as competency-based education and more
skills training at community colleges.
Meanwhile, the 2016 elections didn’t just shake up things in
Washington. Republicans made further inroads in states,
particularly notable given the push to give states and localities
greater power over education. Currently, the governors of 33
states are Republican, while just 16 are Democrats and one is
Independent. Republicans have what Ballotpedia
calls a “trifecta” in 25 states (compared with six for
Democrats), where the party controls the governorship and both
Furthermore, there are plenty of fresh faces in key state
positions of power that influence education policy. As
Education Week recently noted, half the nation’s state
legislatures have at least one new education chairman in 2017,
and one-quarter of state superintendents are less than one year
into the job.