Trump Era

Overview

Education in the Trump Era

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.

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 legislative chambers.

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Supreme Court Rules on Public Money for Religious Schools
Case challenges Blaine Amendments, separation of church and state in school choice programs

Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 30, 2020, after the Supreme Court ruled in the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue ​case.

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that Montana unconstitutionally prevented public dollars from following students to private schools — potentially creating a landmark decision on the separation of church and state in public education. (Read the full opinion here.)

EWA Radio

Will Betsy DeVos Outlast All of Trump’s Cabinet Members?
Plus, what to watch for when presidential candidates talk education
(EWA Radio: Episode 223)

February 7 will mark the three-year anniversary of Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as the U.S. secretary of education. Few observers had bet she would stick around this long. But today, DeVos is one of the longest-serving members of President Trump’s cabinet. Rebecca Klein of The Huffington Post recently talked with dozens of people about the education secretary’s tenure, crafting an in-depth analysis of what motivates her decisions and keeps her on the job.

EWA Radio

A Thousand Days of Secretary DeVos
As President Trump's education chief approaches third year in office, a look at her impact, influence, and why she’s expected to stay the course
(EWA Radio: Episode 223)

When Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the U.S. secretary of education in early 2017, few observers would have bet she would stick around for long. Today, DeVos is one of the longest-serving members of President Trump’s cabinet. Rebecca Klein of The Huffington Post talked with dozens of people about the controversial education secretary’s tenure so far, crafting an in-depth analysis of what motivates her decisions and keeps her on the job.

EWA Radio

If DACA Ends, What Happens to Students and Schools?
Final decision pending after U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on program for undocumented children
(EWA Radio: Episode 138)

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The program has temporarily protected some 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children from being deported. While a key focus is college-age students who fear deportation, ending DACA has significant repercussions for the K-12 school community as well. In this 2017 episode of EWA Radio, soon after Trump announced his plans to unwind DACA, Corey Mitchell of Education Week and Katie Mangan of The Chronicle of Higher Education discussed the potential implications.

EWA Radio

Why Impeachment Is a Teachable Moment
As President Trump faces a congressional impeachment inquiry, teachers and education journalists share similar challenges to explain and inform
(EWA Radio: Episode 221)

Unlike long-running controversies over topics such as gun control or immigration policy, it’s been 20 years since the nation was roiled by efforts to impeach a sitting president. That gives today’s civics teachers a unique opportunity to help students connect historical and current events, explains Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week.

EWA Radio

The Higher Ed Stories You Need to Know About
Underground fraternities, student loan debt, free speech on campus are top issues for fall
(EWA Radio: Episode 215)

Where can you find reliable data on how your colleges and universities are handling sexual-assault allegations on campus? How do you develop better sources among the faculty senate leadership? And why is now the time to focus on Greek life on campus — and a growing number of students’ opposition to it?

EWA Radio

Back to School: Story Ideas, Tips and Trends to Watch
School choice, immigration raids, cultural competency top the list
(EWA Radio: Episode 214)

With a new school year getting underway, how can education reporters find fresh angles on familiar ground? Kate Grossman, the education editor for WBEZ public media in Chicago, offers story ideas, big trends to watch for, and suggestions for networking with parents, teachers, and administrators.

Webinar

How the ‘Public Charge’ Ruling Could Affect Students in Your Coverage Area

How the ‘Public Charge’ Ruling Could Affect Students in Your Coverage Area

The Trump administration’s new plan to make it harder for immigrants receiving public benefits to receive green cards could have sweeping implications for students and schools. 

The Education Writers Association presented this webinar to help reporters with story ideas and provide resources for covering the educational impact of the recently announced ”public charge” rule.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Threatened But Still Standing: The Federal Program for After-School, Summer Learning
Despite Trump's attempts to eliminate it, bipartisan support persists

Three times, the Trump administration has tried to ax federal funding for after-school and summer learning programs, and three times Congress has responded by adding more money to the pot.

Most recently, the U.S. House, where Democrats hold a majority, approved a $100 million increase for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative—the primary source of federal funds for local after-school and summer learning programs. That line item, which stills needs approval from the Republican-led Senate, would primarily support activities during the 2020-21 school year.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Discipline Reform: Easier Said Than Done?

For years, kicking students out of school was a common discipline move for administrators. Now, suspending students, a practice that disproportionately affects black and Hispanic youngsters, is out of favor, as educators work to respond to bad behavior without cutting off educational opportunities.

But the change hasn’t been easy, and many educators are still grappling with how to handle discipline problems in ways that don’t hurt students’ education, according to a panel at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this spring in Baltimore.

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: How to Cover Graduate Schools

Most journalists covering universities focus on undergraduate programs, even though, in many cases, the graduate student population is larger and has a bigger impact on the school’s financial health. So graduate schools can be a trove of fresh, under-covered story ideas, according to graduate student representatives and researchers who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The State of Civics Education in 2019

We’ve all seen the startling statistics.

Only a quarter of Americans can name the three branches of government. Only a quarter of high school seniors are “proficient” in civics, based on recent national assessment results.

EWA Radio

Summer Story Ideas on the Education Beat
Tips for tapping national issues to fuel localized reporting
(EWA Radio: Episode 209)

School might be out, but that doesn’t mean education issues take a vacation: Two experienced education journalists offer compelling story ideas to beat the summertime blues. Delece Smith-Barrow of The Hechinger Report and Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report join this week’s podcast to discuss a wide range of national topics ripe for localized summer coverage.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Big Promises for Little Learners: What’s Next for Early Education?

Governors across the country are pledging to pump billions of dollars into early childhood education – historic investments that could have a far-reaching impact on the lives of young people.

But their success will depend on how well states implement those initiatives and the scope and quality of the programs put in place, advocates said during the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this month. And it will be up to journalists, the speakers said, to hold those states accountable.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Top 10 Higher Education Story Ideas for 2019-20
Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik says admissions, free speech and rising graduation rates will make headlines.

While the hottest higher education story of early 2019 involved celebrities trying to bribe their kids’ way into elite colleges,  many other important stories are likely to make news in the 2019-20 academic year, according to Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed.

The veteran higher education journalist and editor listed the 10 topics he thinks every higher education reporter should be ready to cover in the coming months. 

Key Coverage

Top DeVos Deputy Dismisses Criticism of Her Choice Plan As ‘Fearmongering’

A senior official in the U.S. Department of Education has dismissed concerns about a Trump administration school choice plan from a conservative think tank as “outright fear-mongering.” 

Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, dismissed the criticisms from the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank that strongly supports educational choice, during a discussion at the Education Writers Association National Seminar on Tuesday. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Secretary DeVos Comes Face to Face With Education Reporters

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos defended her education agenda in front of hundreds of education reporters on Monday, as she discussed efforts to expand school choice and the reversal of policies and guidance set forth by the Obama administration on student discipline, special education, and student loan forgiveness.

Key Coverage

DeVos Might Not Serve as Ed. Secretary If Trump Re-elected

Betsy DeVos hinted Monday that should President Donald Trump get re-elected in 2020 that she might not serve as education secretary during his second term.

“I’m not sure my husband would be OK with that,” said DeVos of her husband, Dick DeVos, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate, after hesitating before delivering her response.

Key Coverage

Betsy DeVos Says Great Teachers Should Earn $250,000

At the Education Writers Association conference in Baltimore today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos drew a gulp from the crowd when she said, “Great teachers should be making at least half as much as Randi Weingarten does at a half a million dollars a year.”