Trump signed an executive order Wednesday which requires Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study whether and how the federal government has overstepped its legal authority in K-12 schools, a move in a broader effort to give power to states and local communities.
“Previous administrators have wrongfully forced states and school to comply with federal whims and dictate what our kids are taught,” Trump said at the White House. “But we know that local communities do it best and know it best.”
Rob Goad, a department official, said that the order gives DeVos 300 days to conduct a review to identify any regulations or guidance related to K-12 schools that is inconsistent with federal law. The review is led by a task forced headed by Robert Eitel, a senior counselor to DeVos who previously worked for a for-profit college company.
It is not a new thing for the GOP to want public education with less federal government involvement, but during President Barack Obama’s administration complaints of federal overreach intensified. The department wielded billions of dollars in stimulus funds to push states towards adopting new teacher evaluations and Common Core academic standards.
Trump’s order brings “welcome attention to a much-overlooked problem of behavior that has festered through all administrations,” said Jeanne Allen, a veteran of the Reagan administration who runs the D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, which advocates for vouchers, charter schools and other forms of choice.
However, Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, thinks differently, and believes that the order changes nothing.
“Trump isn’t signing it to actually improve education for American students,” she said. “He is doing it to put a fake point on the board within his first 100 days because he can’t pass an accomplishment of significance.”