Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Cedar Rapids, IA on July 28, 2016. Photo credit: Max Goldberg, Iowa State Daily, cropped from original (CC-By-3.0)
Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Cedar Rapids, IA on July 28, 2016.
Photo credit: Max Goldberg, Iowa State Daily, cropped from original (CC-By-3.0)

Parents and activists are pressing President-Elect Donald Trump to keep promises he made related to education. Trump on the campaign trail was a critic of the Common Core State Standards saying that he would end Common Core. The President can’t legally force states to repeal Common Core, but is able to end federal support for the standards. Trump has also said he believes education policy should be left at local and state level.

The first decision he makes that will set the tone is the selection of the U.S. Secretary of Education.

There are a lot of names swirling out as possible candidates. Here are some of the names:

  • Williamson Evers – Education expert at Hoover Institution, a think tank. He served as an assistant secretary of education under President George W. Bush. He serves on Trump’s transition team.
  • Tony Bennett – ousted Indiana Superintendent of Public Education who later resigned as Florida Commissioner of Education after being investigated for fraud.
  • Congressman Luke Messer (R-Indiana) – serves on the House Education & Workforce Committee
  • Eva Moskowitz – the CEO and Founder of Success Academy Charter Schools
  • Michelle Rhee – Founder of Students First, former Chancellor of Washington, DC Public Schools
  • Tony Zeiss, a former president of Central Piedmont Community College
  • Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now the president of the Purdue University System.
  • Governor Scott Walker (R-WI)
  • Hanna Skandera, the New Mexico Secretary of Education
  • Education activist Betsy DeVos
  • Education activist Kevin Chavous
  • Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College

Many of the names on the list concern activists who have opposed Common Core, and it is uncertain who on the list is actually on the short list. A Trump aide confirmed that Moskowitz and Rhee are being considered however and they both support Common Core. Moskowitz on Thursday said that she was not interested in the position. Former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson was also mentioned as a person who was being considered, but Carson recently said he was not interested in any cabinet role.

Appointing a person who supports Common Core, as well as, the present federal role in education would contradict his previously stated campaign goals and send the opposite message.

“Mr. Trump has promised to end Common Core and restore local control, and he has praised the idea of shutting down the unconstitutional Department of Education. To do this he’ll have to appoint a Secretary who shares these goals,” Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project, told Caffeinated Thoughts. “The best suggestions for a new Secretary are coming from the grassroots groups who’ve been in this battle for years and who know the players — good and bad. We hope he’ll listen to the people who elected him rather than to so-called ‘experts’ who have a very different agenda.”

Joy Pullmann with the Heartland Institute launched a petition that, at the time of this writing, has over 1000 signatures including 31 activists who were the original signers (disclosure: I am one of those).

Pullmann told Caffeinated Thoughts that the incoming Trump administration has a potential opportunity to accomplish what many Americans would like to see happen.

“There is a huge appetite to be freed from bureaucrats who don’t know us, don’t know our kids, and think empty credentialing and sycophantic ladder-climbing should automatically grant them power to tell us what to do,” Pullmann said.

“Most of the people the media are naming as potential U.S. education secretaries fit into this old and insulting pattern, but it’s completely opposite Trump’s temperament and promises to the American people. So we are just hoping to get his attention and ask that he keep those promises, because we were listening to him when he made them and are willing to hope he might not have been lying to us like a typical politician,” Pullmann added.

Jenni White of Reclaiming Oklahoma Parent Empowerment said she signed because of the federal interference she saw in her state.

“In 2014 in Oklahoma – after nearly five years of citizen lobbying, writing, researching and flat out begging – our state repealed Common Core from state law in favor of state-written standards. Following an extremely contentious, rhetoric-filled public comment period, the Oklahoma legislature caved to pressure from teacher and superintendent organizations, statist Republicans and Chambercrats, and adopted state education standards so incomplete, our Superintendent was forced to submit a waiver to the DOE to keep them in compliance with testing requirements of the new ESSA,” White told Caffeinated Thoughts.

“With these actions at the state level, it became apparent to me – especially with the Obama administration at the helm pushing and prodding states to conform with new federal ESSA legislation and Presidential Executive Orders – that parents no longer had control over the education of their children. Unfortunately, two more years with the Obama Administration in control gave me no reason to think anything different would be happening in the immediate future, and I all but gave up. In fact, it wasn’t until the loss of Hillary Clinton (and the GOP establishment) in the 2016 election that I began to actually hope for a change I could believe in for public education policy.

“President-elect Trump has said numerous times he wants Common Core ‘gone’ and has hinted at an end to the reign of top-down federal education policy dictating to parents how to educate their children. I signed the letter because I believe President-elect Trump is interesting in attempting to restore local control of public education and that’s something for which I’ve been advocating from the moment I stepped out of the role of simple ‘mom’ to ‘mom-as-citizen-education-lobbyist’, and that’s exciting after eight years of seeing exactly the opposite happen,” White added.

The petition states that Williamson Evers would be a favorite choice among Common Core opponents, and also recommended Larry Arnn, as well as, Sandra Stotsky who has not been brought up as being on the short list. Stotsky helped write Massachusetts ELA standards pre-Common Core, and has served as a Senior Associate Education Commissioner in Massachusetts prior to teaching at Northeastern University, Harvard University and the University of Arkansas. Stotsky has been a leading critic of Common Core, and was one of five members of the validation committee not to sign off on the standards.

White, was also one of the co-authors, of a “parents’ open letter to Donald Trump” published at Parents Against Common Core (disclosure: I have also signed). The letter signed by 69 leaders of parent groups, retired teachers and professionals urged Trump to take the following steps as President:

  1. Scale back and eventually cease the flow of education funding from the federal level to the states
  2. Scale back and eventually cease the role of writing and dictating education policy from the federal level to the individual states in singularity or in toto
  3. Scale back and eventually cease provision of grant opportunities from the federal level to the states for any reason, but specifically to cease and prevent support of any federal education policy, but especially related to invasive, ineffective social emotional learning, preschool, and home visiting programs
  4. Revise and modernize the FERPA law for the specific purpose of protecting individual student privacy rights, including prevention of unauthorized and/or anonymous digital capture of granular data – specifically rescinding the changes to FERPA through the Office of the Federal Register undertaken in 2011, as well as maintaining the wise federal prohibition on a student “unit record” that would link college and workforce data for individuals.
  5. Transfer funding for and oversight of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to the states and remove the Common Core requirements for grade level instruction and testing for students receiving Special Education and related services.
  6. Appointment of a Secretary of Education who is committed to reducing, if not eliminating, the federal footprint in education; who understands the Constitutional role of the federal DOE is non-existent; who will work to eliminate any incentives or requirements supporting Common Core; who understands that Title 1 portability will impose Common Core and other federal strings on private and home schools, completely undermining your key promise of local control; and who is a parents right advocate. Our choices would include Dr. Bill Evers, Dr. Larry Arnn, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Peg Luksik, or Dr. William Jeynes.

Trump has a great opportunity to take a positive step in fulfilling campaign promises that he has made. Parents and activists plan to watch and see if his actions match his words.

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