Educational Justice

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This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions that you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist

  • Call your Senator by dialing tel:844-6-RESIST and tell them to protect the Department of Education.
  • Find out when your Senators and US Representative are holding town halls and other Upcoming Events/Opportunities. Show up and tell them to support equitable funding for education.
  • Click here to find an organization looking for volunteers.

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Laws Proposed by Congress

Harmful Legislation

  • H.J. Res. 57 uses the Constitutional Review Act (CRA) to remove the accountability regulation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, leaving school districts and states without clarity for how to implement the law's accountability provisions. Striking this regulation gives President Trump and Secretary DeVos greater control over the country's schools. The CRA also prevents the Department from issuing a "substantially similar" regulation, which potentially prevents the Department from regulating on school accountability for marginalized students in the future.
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  • H.R. 610 repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, limits the authority of the Department of Education, establishes a voucher program, and overturns the requirement that school lunches increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy while reducing the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
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  • H.R. 899 abolishes the federal Department of Education.[1]
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See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Vouchers

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has shown enthusiasm for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, and during his campaign President Trump proposed a $20 billion federal voucher program.[2] This proposal is problematic because it would require cutting other parts of the federal education budget, most likely the Title I program. Title I provides financial assistance to local education agencies (LEAs) and schools with high percentages of low-income students.[3] Vouchers would have the impact of giving taxpayer money to religious schools, because most private schools are religiously affiliated. [4]

Studies show that many school choice programs do not provide enough funding to low-income families to provide for the full cost of private school tuition.[5] Trump's educational program would encourage more students to attend charter schools, which are 16% more likely to suspend students than non-charter schools.[6] DeVos has never worked in education and was instrumental in killing a bill in Detroit that would have provided oversight and regulation to its charter schools. [7] This has led to 80% of the state's charters operating for profit, with schools constantly opening and closing. [8] Few charters perform better than low-performing traditional public schools do, and high-performing charter school networks stayed away from Michigan because of how unstable the school market is absent regulation. [9]

The Trump administration’s budget proposal cuts funding for the Department of Education by 13.5% overall, but spends $1.4 billion to expand vouchers, eventually increasing to $20 billion a year in funding. Initially $250 million will go toward a private school-choice program, while $168 million will go to charter schools.

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities are not guaranteed the same protections when using a voucher in a private or religiously affiliated school as they are in a public school, so their education may suffer at private schools. [10] Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated in her confirmation hearing that enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should be left to the states, seemingly unaware that this is a federal law.[11] There are also serious concerns about whether a Trump administration would enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, given that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the inclusion of students with disabilities is “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.” [12]

Trump’s budget proposal maintains $13 billion in funding for IDEA special education programs, but cuts funding for TRIO programs, which provide support for disabled students. [13]

Transgender Students

Trump has rescinded Obama-era protections for transgender students under Title IX, which means that students could be required, under the authority of state or local school boards, to use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond with their biological gender rather than their gender identity. It would also limit students' eligibility to play on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. It does still allow school boards to implement their own protections, and permits individuals or advocacy groups to appeal to federal courts if a transgender student's rights have been violated. [14]

Low-Income Students

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate $1.2 billion in funding for summer- and after-school programs, [15] such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide services to students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. [16] These cuts would disproportionately impact black and Hispanic students, who are at least twice as likely to attend after-school programs as white students. [17] The budget also cuts funding for federal TRIO programs, which serve low-income and first-generation college students, and the GEAR UP program, which prepares low-income middle and high-school students for college. [18]

Civil Rights

The House of Representatives and Senate have voted to repeal rules and regulations of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) enacted by President Obama, with wide bi-partisan support, to create more collaboration between the federal and state governments with regard to testing and civil rights; after the President signs the legislation Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will have broad new power over our public education system.[19]

Post-Secondary Education and Federal Student Aid

In terms of higher education, Trump has proposed a student loan policy that has been described as similar to what the Obama administration already put in place. This plan states that repayment would be capped at 12.5% of students' income, and that debt would be eliminated completely after 15 years. [20] The plan was criticized by the GOP for being "left of Obama." [21]. Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at the liberal think tank Demos, said of Trump’s student loan plan, "Trump is essentially trying to deal with the effects of the student loan problem by proposing a new policy somewhat similar to what we have already. But his diagnosis of the root causes are misaligned and incorrect.” [22]

Trump’s student loan plan was further criticized due to the effects it would likely have on Title IX regulations and the Education Department of Civil Rights. [23] Both universities and the Office of Civil Rights would face cutbacks for Title IX, an education amendment adopted in 1972 that states, "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," and is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights.[24] This partnership allowed the White House to increase the efforts of the OCR as well as to focus on campus sexual assault and bring perpetrators to justice.[25]

The Trump administration’s proposed budget eliminates Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which provide need-based aid to around 1.6 million low-income undergraduates annually. [26] The budget also calls for a reduction in funding for Federal Work-Study programs. [27] Pell Grants, subsidies for students with financial need, maintain their discretionary funds, but the budget proposes $3.9 billion in cuts from the program’s $10.6 billion surplus. [28] Cuts to Pell Grants would disproportionately impact communities of color. In 2012, 62% of black undergraduates, 50% of Hispanic undergraduates, and 54% of Native American undergraduates received Pell Grants. [29]

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) shrunk the scope of federal authority, particularly with regard to designing and implementing accountability systems.[30] However, the Secretary of Education remains responsible for approving accountability plans devised by the states.[31] The Secretary of Education cannot require states to adopt certain policies in order to receive flexibility from federal law.[32]

Less than 9% of the estimated $600 billion spent annually on education comes from the federal government.[33] In order for vouchers to be a implemented as an alternative to public schools, states would have to kick in $110 billion.[34] Given the limited power of the Secretary of Education, she would have to find a way to incentivize states to do this.[35]

Local public schools stand to lose money through voucher programs, and parents will likely be concerned about cuts to their schools' budgets. In 2009-10, more than 56,000 schools around the country benefited from Title I dollars, including school districts in every state in the country.[36] While people will argue about whether putting money into vouchers qualifies as "cutting spending on education," polling indicates that most people do not want cuts to education spending.[37] Roughly half of all nonfederal education funding comes from local property taxes raised by more than 13,000 local school districts, all of whom would have to be on board with a voucher program.[38] Additionally, teachers' and administrators' unions typically oppose voucher schemes and will likely oppose any Trump administration effort.

Title I Portability faces several hurdles that prevent it from being enacted immediately. 38 states currently have constitutional amendments, called Blaine Amendments, that prohibit federal funding from going to religious schools.[39] Turning Title I funds into portable vouchers would provide students with approximately $538 each, while private school tuition in the US averages about $11,000 per year.[40]