Trump Era

Overview

Education in the Trump Era

The election of Republican Donald Trump as president, coupled with the GOP's success in retaining control of Congress for two more years, appears likely to reshape federal education policy in significant ways, from preschool to college. Already, Republican lawmakers have moved to repeal key Obama administration regulations on school accountability and teacher preparation. The Trump administration made waves by backing away from Obama-era guidance for schools on bathroom access for transgender students.

The election of Republican Donald Trump as president, coupled with the GOP’s success in retaining control of Congress for two more years, appears likely to reshape federal education policy in significant ways, from preschool to college. Already, Republican lawmakers have moved to repeal key Obama administration regulations on school accountability and teacher preparation. The Trump administration made waves by backing away from Obama-era guidance for schools on bathroom access for transgender students. And early signals suggest expanding school choice will be the president’s top educational priority, one that could find favor among GOP lawmakers.

Even before the 2016 election, the bipartisan rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act handed states and localities significantly greater control over school accountability and other aspects of education. In 2017, all states are revamping their accountability systems, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education now led by Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Beyond the K-12 level, Congress is overdue in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. And the Trump administration is widely expected to pivot away from Obama priorities such as Title IX enforcement on sexual assault and increased oversight of for-profit colleges. Other issues that may gain favor include new strategies to pay for college, such as “risk sharing” arrangements, as well as competency-based education and more skills training at community colleges.

Meanwhile, the 2016 elections didn’t just shake up things in Washington. Republicans made further inroads in states, particularly notable given the push to give states and localities greater power over education. Currently, the governors of 33 states are Republican, while just 16 are Democrats and one is Independent. Republicans have what Ballotpedia calls a “trifecta” in 25 states (compared with six for Democrats), where the party controls the governorship and both legislative chambers.

Furthermore, there are plenty of fresh faces in key state positions of power that influence education policy. As Education Week recently noted, half the nation’s state legislatures have at least one new education chairman in 2017, and one-quarter of state superintendents are less than one year into the job.

Tip Sheet

EWA Tip Sheet: How to Cover Graduate Schools

Most journalists covering universities focus on undergraduate programs, even though, in many cases, the graduate student population is larger and has a bigger impact on the school’s financial health. So graduate schools can be a trove of fresh, under-covered story ideas, according to graduate student representatives and researchers who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s 2019 National Seminar.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The State of Civics Education in 2019

We’ve all seen the startling statistics.

Only a quarter of Americans can name the three branches of government. Only a quarter of high school seniors are “proficient” in civics, based on recent national assessment results.

EWA Radio

Summer Story Ideas on the Education Beat
Tips for tapping national issues to fuel localized reporting
(EWA Radio: Episode 209)

School might be out, but that doesn’t mean education issues take a vacation: Two experienced education journalists offer compelling story ideas to beat the summertime blues. Delece Smith-Barrow of The Hechinger Report and Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report join this week’s podcast to discuss a wide range of national topics ripe for localized summer coverage.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Big Promises for Little Learners: What’s Next for Early Education?

Governors across the country are pledging to pump billions of dollars into early childhood education – historic investments that could have a far-reaching impact on the lives of young people.

But their success will depend on how well states implement those initiatives and the scope and quality of the programs put in place, advocates said during the Education Writers Association’s annual conference this month. And it will be up to journalists, the speakers said, to hold those states accountable.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Top 10 Higher Education Story Ideas for 2019-20
Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik says admissions, free speech and rising graduation rates will make headlines.

While the hottest higher education story of early 2019 involved celebrities trying to bribe their kids’ way into elite colleges,  many other important stories are likely to make news in the 2019-20 academic year, according to Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed.

The veteran higher education journalist and editor listed the 10 topics he thinks every higher education reporter should be ready to cover in the coming months. 

Key Coverage

Top DeVos Deputy Dismisses Criticism of Her Choice Plan As ‘Fearmongering’

A senior official in the U.S. Department of Education has dismissed concerns about a Trump administration school choice plan from a conservative think tank as “outright fear-mongering.” 

Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, dismissed the criticisms from the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank that strongly supports educational choice, during a discussion at the Education Writers Association National Seminar on Tuesday. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Secretary DeVos Comes Face to Face With Education Reporters

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos defended her education agenda in front of hundreds of education reporters on Monday, as she discussed efforts to expand school choice and the reversal of policies and guidance set forth by the Obama administration on student discipline, special education, and student loan forgiveness.

Key Coverage

DeVos Might Not Serve as Ed. Secretary If Trump Re-elected

Betsy DeVos hinted Monday that should President Donald Trump get re-elected in 2020 that she might not serve as education secretary during his second term.

“I’m not sure my husband would be OK with that,” said DeVos of her husband, Dick DeVos, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate, after hesitating before delivering her response.

Key Coverage

Betsy DeVos Says Great Teachers Should Earn $250,000

At the Education Writers Association conference in Baltimore today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos drew a gulp from the crowd when she said, “Great teachers should be making at least half as much as Randi Weingarten does at a half a million dollars a year.”

EWA Radio

What’s Betsy DeVos Up To?
School safety, student loans, and Title IX on front burner as U.S. Secretary of Education begins her third year
(EWA Radio: Episode 197)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,  now one of President Trump’s longest-serving cabinet members, shows no signs she’s contemplating stepping down before the president’s first term ends. Alyson Klein of Education Week and Emily Wilkins of Bloomberg Government discuss regulatory rollbacks by the U.S. Department of Education on issues including how campus sexual assault claims are handled and consumer protections for student financial aid. They also explore the new political dynamics now that Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives, with Rep. Bobby Scott chairing the Committee on Education and Labor.  What are the odds of Congress passing the long-overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, for example? Plus, Klein and Wilkins identify hot topics that local reporters should keep on their radar, including ESSA implementation by states and whether a federal infrastructure package would provide money for school construction.

Webinar

A Reporter’s Guide to Covering Teacher Strikes

A Reporter’s Guide to Covering Teacher Strikes

Given the string of teacher strikes over the past year, a question for education reporters to consider is: Could your district or state be next?

In this EWA webinar, journalists who have covered recent teacher walkouts share insights, lessons learned, and practical advice. What steps should reporters take to prepare if a walkout appears likely? How can they get ahead of the story? Also, what states are more or less likely to see a teacher strike, and why?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Are the Rules for Charter Schools? It Depends.
In wake of 2018 elections, more change is afoot in states

In the often-heated debates over charter schools, it’s easy for the public — and reporters — to see them as monolithic.

A recent report on charter school laws serves as a good reminder that ground rules for the sector — and not just the profiles of individual schools — often vary significantly from state to state.

EWA Radio

‘Lessons Lost’: How Student Churn Holds Back Kids, Schools
In Wisconsin, high student turnover slows school improvement
(EWA Radio: Episode 193)

In an in-depth investigative series, Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at how high rates of student mobility — changing schools at least once during an academic year — hurts their academic progress. Among the findings: 1 in 10 students statewide are moving between campuses annually. The figure is significantly higher in Milwaukee, where 1 in 4 students change schools during the year. How do Wisconsin’s school choice options factor into student churn? How did Richards crunch the data? And what solutions are educators and policymakers floating to combat mobility? Richards, who recently joined USA Today as a national education reporter, offers story ideas for local journalists looking at high turnover in their own districts.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is This a Political Turning Point for the Teaching Profession?

The journalist Dale Russakoff kept hearing the same word in her conversations with Arizona teachers during a reporting trip last spring for The New York Times Magazine. That word, she said, was “awakening.”

EWA Radio

2019 Will Be a Big Year for Education Stories. Here’s Why.
School safety, teacher activism, and Betsy DeVos top list of hot topics
(EWA Radio: Episode 192)

Will school districts change their approach to student discipline in light of recent actions by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? To what extent will the wave of teacher and student activism in 2018 influence public policy in the new year, at both the state and national levels? And why is a forthcoming federal court ruling on affirmative action likely to be a bellwether for elite college admissions? Dana Goldstein, a national education reporter for The New York Times, discusses hot topics to watch in the new year, plus ideas for reporters to localize them. Among her picks: how local districts and colleges might be opting to retain their Obama-era Title IX and civil rights policies, rather than embracing U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ rollback; the growing push to improve civics education, especially as it relates to schools’ responsibilities to prepare students to be informed voters; and the potential impact of a looming federal court decision on whether Harvard’s affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants. Also, Goldstein offers insights for reporters covering what’s next in light of of last year’s wave of teacher walkouts and school shootings, and offers suggestions for taking fresh angles on familiar school choice stories. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Ahead for Private School Choice Policy in 2019?
Vouchers and voucher-like programs may grow in some states, face pushback elsewhere

Arizona voters in November gave a decisive thumbs down to a ballot measure that sought to expand a voucher-like program in that state. The same voters, however, opted by a wide margin to re-elect Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — a champion of private school choice who threw his support behind the failed referendum.

And so it goes. For education overall, the 2018 election outcomes revealed a case of seeming contradictions, as we reported right after the election.

EWA Radio

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is Resigning. These Students Will Remember Him as a Great Interview.
How two high schoolers scored a rare chance to question the cabinet official.
(EWA Radio: Episode 131)

With U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ Dec. 20 announcement of his forthcoming resignation from President Trump’s cabinet, here’s a chance to revisit our conversation with two student journalists who scored a rare interview with the highly regarded military leader. 

Teddy Fischer and Jane Gormley of Mercer Island High School in Washington State discuss how they landed a lengthy Q&A with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who has given few interviews since joining President Trump’s cabinet. Fischer, a rising junior, and Gormley, the immediate past editor of the school’s student newspaper, worked with their journalism class and faculty advisor to prepare for the 45-minute conversation on Memorial Day. Among the issues Mattis discussed: the role education plays in combatting the rise of radicalization and extremism, and suggestions for how U.S. high schools might foster better relations between the U.S. and other countries. Fischer and Gormley share the backstory to their surprisingly wide-ranging interview, the editorial process that went into its publication, and what they’ve learned from the experience.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Do Teachers’ Unions Move Forward in Wake of ‘Janus’ Decision?
High court ruled against collecting 'agency' fees from non-members

In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling to prohibit public sector unions from collecting “agency” or “fair share” fees, some observers saw it as the beginning of the end for teachers unions.

But such dire predictions may be premature, according to education analysts and a union leader at the Education Writers Association’s October event on the teaching profession.