Assessing the Trump administration’s early impact on education

Assessing the Trump administration’s early impact on education
Have the President’s policies helped or harmed U.S. students?

March 30, 2018—As presidential candidate, Donald Trump declared the Common Core a “total disaster” while promising to be the “nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.” Leaders in the sector wondered if, as president, Trump would roll back Obama-era guidance on school accountability, student discipline, and campus sexual misconduct. In a new forum for Education Next, Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, debate how Trump’s policies his first year as president stack up, and whether the impact of his administration on the nation’s schools and colleges has been for better or for worse.

In “A Strong Start on Advancing Reform,” Burke argues that the administration has already made some positive strides in improving K–12 and higher educa­tion through policy changes, rescissions of Obama-era regulations, and rhetorical support of school choice. In addition to rescinding regulations on K-12 school accountability and teacher preparation programs, as well as guidance that jeopardized due process for alleged sexual assault perpetrators, Trump worked with Congress to advance school choice in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which made private-school tuition eligible for 529 savings plans. “The economic benefit for families could add up substantially: holdings in 529 plans currently stand at $275 billion, up from just $2.4 billion in 1996,” says Burke.

In “Harmful Polices, Values, and Rhetoric,” Jeffries contends that Trump’s policies have harmed students and schools, particularly through poor oversight of key provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, failure to enforce federal guarantees of educational equity, and billions in proposed budget cuts. “Betsy DeVos has rolled back the practice of probing civil-rights complaints for evidence of larger, systemic violations, which means that students who are harmed by state and local civil-rights violations will be far less likely to see those abuses remedied,” says Jeffries. He also notes that Trump has heightened the anxiety of U.S racial, religious, and ethnic minority students not only by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, but also through bigoted rhetoric.

To receive an embargoed copy of “Trump and the Nation’s Schools: Assessing the administration’s early impact on education” or to speak with the authors, please contact Jackie Kerstetter at The article will be available Wednesday, April 4 on and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue of Education Next, available in print on May 24, 2018.

About the Authors: Lindsey M. Burke is director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Shavar Jeffries is president of Democrats for Education Reform.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Education Next Institute and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit

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