Education Under a Trump Presidency: Q&A with David Bloomfield

Professor David Bloomfield (GC/Brooklyn, Urban Education) is a sought-after expert on K-12 national and New York-related educational issues. He recently talked to 365 Fifth about what a Trump presidency might mean for public education, from the local to the federal level.

GC: Trump has said he might “cut” the Department of Education. Is such an act possible or at all likely?
DB: It's possible that the new Republican-dominated Congress will pass legislation to eliminate the Department of Education, long a GOP sore point as a teacher-union favorite. But Republican presidents have uniformly exploited the Department to promote their own agenda such as Reagan’s “Nation at Risk” report, Bush I parading as “The Education President,” and Bush II’s No Child Left Behind. 

Trump has already named Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor and champion of Republican education policies, to be his Secretary of Education. Along with the need for a high-profile woman in the Cabinet, I’m betting Trump and the Congress will likewise find the Education Department convenient to keep around.

How does Trump’s stance on testing differ from that of parents who advocate for progressive education?
Trump has no clear position on testing but Republicans have favored continued annual testing of students in math and reading from grades 3 through 8 along with other school accountability measures. The big difference is that under the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, the content of future tests and the standards they’re based on will be state-initiated, not federally driven. 

But this is still far from the progressive education position that tests and other assessments should be teacher-designed and used for diagnostic purposes instead of high-stakes decision-making. 

Do you think Trump will get rid of the Common Core standards? If so, how would this affect schools?
Since the passage of ESSA, adoption of the Common Core has been left entirely to the states. In is no longer endorsed or encouraged by the federal government. In fact, ESSA makes that illegal! So Trump’s ballyhooed opposition to the Common Core during the campaign was really a “dog whistle” to rally voter support. He has no power except through his bully pulpit (and Twitter account) to get rid of the Common Core.   
Trump is a supporter of school choice. How would expanding school choice affect funding for public schools? Have there ever been successful voucher programs at the local or state levels?
The Secretary-designee, Betsy DeVos, is one of the country’s primary backers of school choice through deregulated charter schools and vouchers for private school attendance favoring an open market of secular, religious, and for-profit options, live and online. 

This privatization of American education, with diversion of federal funds from public schools to alternate providers, is a grave threat to school districts around the country, particularly those with high-need student populations dependent on Title I funding and other federal help. 
Voucher programs exist in some localities where they have largely shifted enrollments away from public to religious schools without promised academic gains. Something on this scale, however, might be a game-changer with new corporate entrants to the market bent on using what is likely to be only small individual federal subsidies, sometimes supplemented by compliant states, into a never-before-seen marketing opportunity.

Submitted on: NOV 29, 2016

Category: General GC News