WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s new executive order to review federal regulations on K-12 schools doesn’t give his education secretary powers she didn’t already have, but it could set the stage for a set of proposed changes next year.
Trump signed the order asking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to assess “top-down mandates” from the federal government and whether there is any overreach. Rob Goad, an education department official, acknowledged that DeVos already had that authority, meaning the executive order carried little weight in and of itself.
But Goad said the order mandates a report to be filed in 10 months, outlining possible changes and rollbacks.
“At the end of 300 days, and after we have produced a report, we will make those decisions once the report has concluded,” Goad told reporters in a conference call, according to a transcript published by the White House.
“Since our founding, education was intended to be under state and local control,” Goad said. “In recent years, however, too many in Washington have advanced top-down mandates that take away autonomy and limit the options available to educators, administrators, and parents.”
Goad’s remarks appeared to reference “Common Core” standards — but experts have pointed out that the states, not Washington, adopted those standards (though federal aid was dangled as an incentive) and states themselves would have to repeal Common Core if they wanted.
The review effort will be led by Robert Eitel, a controversial figure in education. While criticizing government regulations over the years, he formerly worked for a for-profit education services company that recently reached a settlement in a lawsuit over deceptive student-loan practices, according to multiple reports.
A Democratic official said the order “doesn’t actually do anything,” noting that DeVos already had review authority. Adrienne Watson, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, told NBC that the executive order was largely for show.
“Trump isn’t signing it to actually improve education for American students, he is doing it to put a fake point on the board within his first 100 days because he doesn’t have any accomplishments of significance,” Watson said in a statement.