President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon on enforcing statutory prohibitions on federal control of education. It is a significant step.

Here are three things it does:

1. Administration policy will favor local and state control in education as the law allows.

The order reads:

It shall be the policy of the executive branch to protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, and personnel of educational institutions, schools, and school systems, consistent with applicable law, including ESEA, as amended by ESSA, and ESEA’s restrictions related to the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Trump is saying that his administration will operate within the confines of the law and not expand the reach and scope of the federal government into K-12 education by rule, regulation, or U.S. Department of Education guidance.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will spearhead the review. DeVos is to look at all of the regulations and guidance documents related to the Department of Education Organization Act, General Education Provisions Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The executive order reads:

The Secretary shall examine whether these regulations and guidance documents comply with Federal laws that prohibit the Department from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over areas subject to State and local control, including:

(i)    the curriculum or program of instruction of any elementary and secondary school and school system;

(ii)   school administration and personnel; and

(iii)  selection and content of library resources, textbooks, and instructional materials.

3. Trump orders DeVos to “rescind or revise” anything that violates statutory prohibitions.

DeVos is ordered to rescind or revise any regulations or guidance documents that are inconsistent with statutory prohibitions on federal control of K-12 education. If any of those items gave the Department the ability to direct, supervise, or control areas that are subject to state and local control she has to rescind or revise and publish any new regulation or guidance document within 300 days.

Here are two things that this executive order does not do:

1. It does not pull the feds out of K-12 education.

The Washington Times ran with this headline: “Donald Trump to pull feds out of K-12 education.”

What utter nonsense.

It takes action from Congress to do this. President Trump can only act within the law. Congress needs to repeal several laws first, what this says is that Trump’s administration plans to follow the law as intended by Congress

2. It does not guarantee anything will happen.

I have my doubts. DeVos had said before Trump signed the executive order, “The Every Student Succeeds Act was a good step in this direction, giving flexibility to states to best meet the needs of their communities.  We’re going to implement this law as Congress intended, not how the previous administration dictated.  When we give decision-making power back to states and communities, students benefit.  This executive order puts us on that track.”

She, like Republicans passed it, look at ESSA with rose-colored glasses. There are issues.

She also said approving state plans is an appropriate federal role. Her view of ESSA and how it relates to Common Core is problematic. So I’ll believe it when I see it.

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