This piece was co-authored by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project.
On Wednesday President Trump issued an executive order directing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to determine which regulations and guidance documents issued by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) have unlawfully overreached on education policy to the detriment of state and local control. According to a senior USED official, Rob Goad, the order “puts an end to this overreach, ensuring that states and localities are free to make educational decisions as required by” three federal statutes that prohibit federal “direction, supervision, or control” over various aspects of education policy. In compliance with the order, a task force led by USED senior adviser Robert Eitel will “manage this process . . . and work with the public to help determine which regulations are inconsistent with federal law.”
This is a good first step. In fact, if read in the light most favorable to the administration, this executive order is a positive development. It shows that President Trump is serious about his campaign promises to restore local control in education and eliminate the federal pressures to keep the Common Core national standards in place. It is also a sign that he is fundamentally different from past politicians who somehow rationalized breaking their promises. And it is a sign that he understands the people want great things from him.
But questions arise on a close reading of the order. Its stated purposes are “to restore the proper division of power under the Constitution between the Federal Government and the States” and “to further the goals of, and to ensure strict compliance with, statutes that prohibit Federal interference with State and local control over education.” Once the review has been completed, will the timid, establishment forces in the administration and in Congress claim, “Mission Accomplished”?
Will they argue that President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as reauthorized by President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, as reauthorized by President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, establishes the proper division of power between the federal government and the states?
Will they argue, as President Obama did, that true state and local control of education is already a reality in America?
Will they argue that no more legislation is needed?
Will they argue that the federal role defined by the Johnson-Bush-Obama legislation does not inflict severe damage on the constitutional structure and on parents and their children?
Presidents with great visions invariably have some senior staffers who are timid. That’s to be expected. Likewise, it is to be expected that they will join forces with the timid members of Congress to tell the President that he won’t be able to get great bills passed. Bless them. They can’t help themselves. But they must not be allowed to turn this into the GOP version of the Carter presidency.
In this regard, it must be mentioned that DeVos herself was a fan of Common Core until she wasn’t, and that she has populated USED with like-minded bureaucrats who have backgrounds with the Jeb Bush wing of education philosophy — pro-Common Core, pro-education-as-workforce-development, and pro-intrusive data-collection. Trump cannot let these underlings hijack his agenda.
As we told Breitbart, “Great presidents have a great vision and are able to bring it into reality. That invariably means overcoming the timid in their own administration and in Congress. That’s the hurdle President Trump faces.”
Stay strong, Mr. President.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore