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Federalism in K-12 Education: Where Trump’s Executive Order stands today

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Department of Education is nearly 60 days into its review of K-12 schools. In April, President Trump signed the Executive Order on Federalism Education designed to “alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hired a team to give a top to bottom evaluation of K-12 programs by meeting with local leaders and educators in school districts around the country.

The department has been given 300 days to complete its review and is now nearly one-third of the way in.

“I think it is also a review of agency operations. It’s a look inside the agencies and how they function,” education expert Lindsey Burke from the Heritage Foundation told Red Alert Politics. “There are roughly 4,200 employees at the federal department of education today, I think they are really taking a look at whether these offices could be consolidated, eliminated, or shifted to public-private partnerships.”

President Trump and Secretary DeVos have been strong advocates for shrinking the size of the federal government and rolling back policies that were set by the Obama administration.

“For too long, the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments,” Trump said at the signing of the executive order. “The time has come to empower teachers and parents to make the decisions that help their students achieve success.”

But it seems that Congress and the Oval Office are at odds on a number of necessary cuts to be made in the department. Last week, the House proposed cuts to the Department of Education’s budget by $2.4 billion dollars, which is a small amount compared to the President’s $9.2 billion proposal. One program under the House’s plan that would have its funding stripped is the $2 billion program under Title II, which provides funding for training teachers.

“It is not all appropriate for the federal government to be funding professional development for teachers. That’s a state and local issue,” Burke said.

The House’s outline also made no priority to expand programs that the president supports. The main education priority for the President, which was absent in the House’s bill, is funding for charter schools, independently run public schools open and free to all students.

Overall, the proposal by the House is not enough and does not come close to meeting the president’s aspirations. The Education Department’s review is designed to bring some clarity for both the White House and Congress by finding excess spending and pinpoint programs that need changes. From this review, the Trump administration and Congress can better assess and come to agreements on necessary cuts.

The department’s evaluation will reveal its findings next June.  The Department of Education and the head of the review team, Robert Eitel, a senior counselor to DeVos for a comment on the progress of the review, have yet to return a request for comment.

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