- President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, charter school proponent and active Republican, as his education secretary, prompting a range of predictions about what she might do in office.
- Business Insider reports DeVos has been an active opponent of charter school regulation and a proponent of vouchers in Michigan, which has led her critics to say she is intent to destroy the public education system.
- The New York Times, however, reports Trump’s $20 billion federal voucher program proposal would require billions of dollars of investment at the state level, where education funding is limited — and even where state governments might support such an initiative, local school boards would have to sign on.
There have been a lot of worst-case scenarios discussed in the follow-up to the election, but when it comes to education, Congress has guaranteed the next administration would have a limited role in prescribing policy. The Every Student Succeeds Act sends a significant amount of power back to the states, limiting the tools the U.S. Department of Education will have at its disposal to impact schools at the local level.
One area in which the Department of Education could have a sizeable impact is through inaction, rather than action. The Obama administration’s Office of Civil Rights has been incredibly active in making clear that a broad group of students is protected under civil rights law, including transgender students. It has also brought a greater focus on sexual assault and harassment and language access services for families who don’t speak English. By simply doing nothing — or even very little — the Trump administration would represent a major shift in this regard.