No Mention of K-12 Education in Trump’s First SOTU Address

President Donald Trump did not explicitly address K-12 education in his first State of the Union address last night and had very little to say about education in general. He briefly plugged an investment in workforce development.

He said:

As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training.  Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.

Out of one hour and twenty minutes or so that is it.

While workforce development has been tied to K-12 education, his focus appears to be on vocational schools which could impact K-12 education but will probably have to do with post-high school education opportunities. Based on what he said it is hard to discern what the particular policy will look like.

Then we have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ statement after the State of the Union address.

“America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st-century economy. I join the President in calling on Congress to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways,” she said.

It was probably difficult for her communications team to find anything to say about his State of the Union address. I’m surprised he didn’t make even a brief comment about school choice.

On one hand, this could be seen as a good sign. K-12 education should NOT be a priority for the President or the federal government.

On the other hand, I would have appreciated comments from President Trump about how he planned to further cut down the federal regulatory environment that burdens public schools. I also would have appreciated comments about how he planned to return more power back to states and local school boards.

I’m afraid his silence means further status quo.

Education and the First Presidential Debate

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell

So who said what on education on Monday evening during the first presidential debate?

Crickets…. It is amazing that the topic never came up at all even in an answer for an unrelated question.

Frederick Hess had this to say at Education Next:

Outside of a five-word Clinton throwaway mention of debt-free college, education didn’t make even a token appearance in the 45 minutes the candidates spent talking about “prosperity”. Amidst heated talk about foreign trade, taxes on “the rich,” Trump’s tax returns, birther-ism, Clinton’s emails, and more, neither bothered to raise K-12, higher education, or college costs. As marginal as education has been in 2016, I was still surprised that neither chose to go there. It’s a chance to play positive and send a signal about inclusive growth.

Education was almost equally absent when moderator Lester Holt turned to racial tension, civil unrest, incarceration, and policing. Clinton’s initial response mentioned schooling, but the candidates never returned to the role of education. In purely practical terms, that struck me as peculiar on a bunch of levels. Education is a way to talk about how to reduce tensions and offer more promising avenues. It’s a chance to talk of opportunity and responsibility. It’s a way to talk about promoting civic virtues and mutual understanding. And I was surprised that, in talking about the problems related to incarceration and urban violence, neither candidate cited the importance of prison education or prisoner reentry.

He makes some predictions on what they might do… well sort of.

I know reporters are working hard to parse what a Trump or Clinton win really means for education. But I’ll tell you what I keep telling education writers—it’s damn hard to know. For Trump, as best I can tell, policy is performance art. There’s no reason to believe he means what he says. So, when he tosses out the notion of $20 billion for school choice, I don’t think it’s more than a short-lived symbolic gesture. Meanwhile, Clinton has made rafts of promises regarding new regulations, programs, and spending, and it’s hard to know which of it she’s serious about.

The safest bet is that, especially post-ESSA, she’d back-burner K-12 to focus on new spending and regulations for pre-K and higher education, which has the added benefit of uniting Democrats. The thing, of course, is that her proposals would create fierce new partisan divides on those issues, and have trouble moving through what’s likely to be a Republican House. Would’ve been nice if either of them had seen fit to offer any more clarity on any of this in the debate, but so it goes.

Trump has talked tough on Common Core, but it remains to be seen what his actual plans are beyond throwing money at school choice. At best with Clinton we can hope for is status quo with K-12 which isn’t good. At worst we’ll see her double down on Marc Tucker’s suggestions. She has laid out her platform, but we also have her record to go on as well, and it is dismal. Her plans for pre-K are frightening.

Donald Trump on Education: We Will End Common Core

Donald Trump doesn’t say much about education policy. I’ve only personally heard him discuss Common Core in a dig against Jeb Bush, something he’ll also be able to direct Hillary Clinton’s way.

His issues page only includes the video below sharing Trump’s message about education.


I am tremendous believer in education, but education has to be at a local level. We can not have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education. So Common Core is a total disaster, we can’t let it continue. We are rated 28 in the world, the United States, think of it – 28 in the world, and frankly we spend far more per pupil than any other country in the world by far it’s not even a close second.

So here we are, we spend more money and we are rated 28. Third world countries are ahead of us. We are going to end Common Core. We are going to have education, an absolute priority.

Trump has good instincts on Common Core, and saying education needs to be at a local level is a good thing. Those are good instincts. The primary problem I have with Donald Trump when it comes to education policy is the lack of specificity. Why does he believe Common Core is bad? Why does he believe education needs to be at the local level. I want to know he understands the issue and isn’t just spouting off talking points.

How will he end Common Core when states have adopted these? Does this mean he’ll end the carrot and stick approach to federal education funding? Will he work to repeal the Every Student Succeeds Act? Will he work to end the U.S. Department of Education?

He then says education is an absolute priority. How so if education is supposed to be at the local level. I would love to hear presidential candidates say education is not and should not be a federal priority. The reason for this is that it is not a constitutional priority. If I saw education listed as one of the enumerated powers of Congress in Article I of the Constitution I’d feel differently, but its not.

Does Donald Trump understand this?

Also, and at the risk of sounding nit picky, while the U.S. spends a lot per pupil for K-12 education, it does not spend the most. It is actually in 5th place. Switzerland, Norway, Austria and Luxembourg spends more per student according to the last OECD report. The U.S. spends the most when you factor in postsecondary education, but not when you just consider elementary and secondary education.

In terms of education policy at the federal level Trump has a leg-up on Clinton. He would be wise to flesh his position out more.

Marco Rubio: We Don’t Need Common Core or a Department of Education

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

During the Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, IA last Friday U.S. Senator Marco Rubio gave a direct answers about what a federal role in K-12 education should look like when the topic was brought up by Frank Luntz who moderated the forum.

“I agree that our K-12 system in America is deficient and it is not preparing kids to compete in the 21st century, but it really isn’t the role of the federal government to run the K through 12 system that belongs to state and local communities. That’s why we don’t need Common Core, and quite frankly that is why we don’t need a Department of Education,” Rubio said.

He then discussed higher education, in particular trade schools, but then Luntz circled back around to K-12 education.  Luntz talked about how some communities are failing and states differ from one another in quality of education.  He said, “aren’t kids suffering as a result?”

“The answer to that is you better get better state legislators, better school board members, a better governor, because it is the local government… If you put the federal government in charge of K through 12 education you are not going to be happy with the result. Because that means you are going to have to go to Washington, DC and try to influence some unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat at the Department of Education. That means you have to travel to Washington, DC to get Congress to pay attention and they are only going to make it worse,” Rubio answered.

“I honestly, truly and fully believe that it constitutionally belong at the state and local level, but you will get better results when the people making those K through 12 decisions are the people closest to our people,” Rubio added.

Watch his entire answer below:


Bobby Jindal Releases K-12 Education Plan

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal released his policy paper on K-12 education entitled “K-12 Education Reform: A Road Map” through his non-profit organization America Next.

You can read his paper here or below.

As we approach 2016 we’ll post on candidates’ positions on K-12 education.