Education Week - May 17, 2017 - 18
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Altered Landscape for Education Advocates Under Trump
By Alyson Klein &
Education advocates in Washington might
not always be on the same page when it comes
to policy, but there's at least one thing the vast
majority agree on: The Trump administration-buttressed by a Republican Congress-
is unlike anything they've ever had to contend
In particular, groups that lobby Congress
and the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of public school educators, as well as those
representing civil rights issues and advocating
for education funding, say that they are fighting what feels like a multifront war against
vouchers, dramatic budget cuts, and what
some describe as a general antipathy toward
public schools and disadvantaged children.
"Being an advocate for public education
gives me job security," joked Noelle Ellerson
Ng, the associate executive director of AASA,
the School Superintendents Association.
"There's plenty to engage on."
Another was more blunt: "It really sucks,"
the advocate said.
To be sure, the situation is different-even
reversed-for groups that champion school
choice and other policy approaches favored
by the Trump administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Such groups often found
themselves sidelined during President Barack
But there's a long list of issues that keep
teachers' unions, civil rights organizations,
and similar advocates up at night.
On the fiscal front, there's the Trump administration's pitch to cut $9 billion, or nearly
14 percent, from the Education Department's
roughly $70 billion budget, including slashing key programs that help pay for teacherquality initiatives and after-school programs.
CTE BILL AT A GLANCE
The Strengthening Career and Technical
Education for the 21st Century Act was
introduced earlier this month in the House
of Representatives. The bill to reauthorize
the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical
Education Act would:
* Increase state control over federal
funding for career-and-technical
* Allow states to set aside money for
competitive or formula-funded grant
* Change the definition of which students
can be classified as CTE "concentrators."
* Increase the allowable state set-aside
of federal CTE funding from 10 percent
under current law to 15 percent.
* Allow the U.S. secretary of education 120
days to approve or reject state CTE plans.
* Measure new subgroups of students
when assessing federally funded CTE
* Attempt to better align CTE programs
with local workforce and economic needs.
SOURCE: Education Week
The health-care bill could squeeze up to
$4 billion in funding that schools use to cover
special education services.
And there are concerns that the Trump administration won't continue to invest in rural
broadband, which many educators worry
could slow the progress the Obama administration made in boosting connectivity in remote rural districts.
Then there's the administration's big school
choice push, about which there are few hard-
Every proposal that
seems to come out is
almost like a bomb.
You're in constant
damage control, which
KELLY VAILLANCOURT STROBACH
National Association of School Psychologists
and-fast details. The Trump administration
has asked for $1 billion in new Title I funding to be directed to school choice in its budget request. And the spending plan also seeks
increased funding for charter schools and
resources for a private school initiative. But
the specifics of those programs remain cloudy,
frustrating advocates on both sides of this contentious issue.
Some organizations say they are struggling
to preserve what they see as victories from the
Obama years, including a larger role for the
department in looking out for children's civil
rights and a focus on resource equity.
"The idea that we might be going backward
is just deeply frustrating," said Liz King, the
director of education for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Level of Unpredictability
The mechanics of the job n ow are different,
too. The political ranks at the Education Department are thin, since the White House has
been slow to fill subcabinet positions. Some
Washington organizations have started providing the kind of technical assistance to their
members that the department used to provide,
doing their best to answer questions about
matters like implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Others say their communication with civil
servants at the department has been markedly different-policy experts they've long
worked with aren't nearly as accessible or
What's more, because President Trump
doesn't have a full team in place and doesn't
have a long record on K-12 issues, it's tough
for advocates to see around the corner when it
comes to education policy and spending. That
situation isn't unique to education, said Mary
Kusler, the senior director of the National
Education Association's Center for Advocacy.
"I would agree it's hard [to be an advocate]
because there is a level of unpredictability.
That is not an education-only problem. It is a
Washington, D.C., new-world-order problem,"
she said. "It makes it impossible to plan for
the long term."
The choice of Betsy DeVos, a longtime school
choice champion, as education secretary only
makes life harder from the perspective of
groups like the NEA that vehemently opposed
"For the first time, we have a secretary of
education who has no background in public
education" and who has a singular focus on
school choice, Kusler said. "Every time she
opens her mouth, she shows her lack of qualifications for this job."
But Jeanne Allen, the CEO for the Center
for Education Reform, a school choice advocacy organization, sees DeVos' appointment
as something to celebrate.
"They're singing a song that we've been
singing for a long time," she said of the secretary and her team.
That's a far cry from the way Allen expected
things would play out early in the fall, when
nearly everyone in Washington was anticipating that former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, then-candidate Trump's Democratic
rival, would be in the White House.
Allen said her organization was "prepared
first and foremost to put most of our time and
energy into state battles and efforts."
But Trump's surprise win was a jolt of a different kind for many public school educators
and organizations that represent them in the
"We went from hearing from our members
[that they were] positive and hopeful to this
drastic shift of almost panic," said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of government
relations for the National Association of School
Psychologists. "Every proposal that seems to
come out is almost like a bomb. You're in constant damage control, which is frustrating."
And advocates for public school educators
say they're worried that proposals that once
looked unlikely to come to fruition-like a
Career Tech-Ed. Proposal Models ESSA Flexibility
By Andrew Ujifusa
A new bill in Congress to overhaul the nation's law governing career-and-technicaleducation programs follows in the footsteps
of the Every Student Succeeds Act by seeking
to give states more discretion over decisions
about spending, which programs to prioritize,
and other issues.
The bipartisan Strengthening Career and
Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
was introduced this month by Reps. Glenn
Thompson, R-Pa., and Raja Krishnamoorthi,
D-Ill., in order to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.
It would redefine which students are considered "concentrators" in CTE programs,
allow states more flexibility in setting performance targets on core indicators of programs'
success, and let state CTE leaders set aside
more federal money than under current law
for competitive grants or their own formulafunded programs.
"It reflects sort of the hallmarks of ESSA,
which is an increased emphasis on flexibility
as well as stakeholder engagement," said Sasha
Pudelski, an assistant director at AASA, the
School Superintendents Association.
The Perkins Act hasn't been reauthorized
since 2006. Similar legislation was introduced last year and passed easily by the
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 17, 2017 | www.edweek.org
House of Representatives. Last year's reauthorization, however, bogged down in the
Senate, where a squabble broke out between
Democrats and Republicans over the extent
to which the upper chamber's companion reauthorization bill should impose restrictions
on the U.S. education secretary's authority.
It's unclear whether the new bill will have
enough momentum to win passage through a
highly polarized Congress already occupied
with health care and other big-ticket issues.
That 2016 legislation also had Thompson as a lead author. Other authors of the
new CTE bill include Reps. Bradley Byrne,
R-Ala.; Katherine Clark, D-Mass. (who was
also the lead co-author of the 2016 bill with
Thompson); Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.; Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Rick Nolan, D-Minn.; and Lloyd
A High Priority?
A House GOP aide earlier this month said
the expectation is that action would be taken
on the bill in the coming weeks.
"We want to make sure that if a student
is going through a CTE program, that they
come out of that program with the skills and
education they need to be successful in the
workforce," the aide said. "The critical way to
do that is to empower state and local leaders."
praised the new bill. For example, the Association for Career and Technical Education said in a statement that the ThompsonKrishnamoorthi legislation "builds on last
year's effort" and that previous attempts to
reauthorize the law also tried to better match
programs with local employers' needs and cut
down on red tape.
Some notable differences exist between the
2016 bill and this year's version.
For example, two accountability indicators
in this year's bill-those for "nontraditional"
students and for program quality-would
apply only to CTE concentrators who have
taken at least two sequential courses of
study. Those indicators would have applied
to such concentrators in the 2016 bill. The
amount that a state could reduce its CTE
funding following the bill becoming law
would be capped at 10 percent, whereas
the 2016 bill in theory had no limit on such
Also, state CTE performance targets would
have to be based on the process laid out in
states' Perkins plans. And the U.S. education
secretary would have 120 days to approve or
reject states' plans; the 2016 bill would have
allowed state plans to become official after
90 days if the secretary had not responded to
their submission within that time.