Trump sets sights on education with new executive order

Trump sets sights on education with new executive order

(UPI) — President Donald Trump signed another executive order Wednesday, the latest of several since January — this time to determine whether the federal government is too involved in the American educational system.

The president signed the order at the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday afternoon, flanked by department chief Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence.

The action gives DeVos nearly a year to gauge the federal government’s role in public education so he can make a determination whether there is an overreach. The order is similar in practice to a number of others Trump has issued in the last three months to address varying corners of Washington.

If Trump determines that Washington, D.C., has too large a role in U.S. education, he could rein in federal oversight and give more decision-making power to local governments — a prospect the president classified as “so important.”

DeVos, formerly a heavyweight GOP donor, has been a vocal proponent of instituting a school voucher system to cover the cost of parents putting their children in private schools.

“We know that local communities do it best and know it best,” Trump said.

Although the order only initiates a review, Trump sounded Wednesday as if the rollback of federal education oversight is already a given.

“Previous administrations have wrongly forced states and schools to comply with federal whims and dictates for what our kids are taught,” he said. “The time has come to empower teachers and parents to make the decisions that help their students achieve success.”

Trump’s education order was signed on the same day as one initiating a review of a federal law that enables presidents to designate national monuments in the United States — a proclamation that shields the lands from commercial drilling and other exploitation activities.

Wednesday’s action wasn’t the administration’s first on education. in February, DeVos scrapped guidance imposed by former President Barack Obama for schools to allow bathroom freedoms to transgender students. The directive, which has languished in federal court for a year, was pulled and the administration said it would not push it any further.

Executive orders, though, as has already been demonstrated in recent weeks, have limited authority. Critics say Wednesday’s were largely for show.

“This [order] changes absolutely nothing,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Adrienne Watson answered. “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.”

“You want to talk about federal overreach? Let’s talk about [Trump’s] and [DeVos’] voucher plans,” Randi Weitgarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted Wednesday.

Tuesday, a federal judge blocked a Trump order that threatened to cut federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” who protect undocumented immigrants. Two orders seeking to deny U.S. entry to refugees and immigrants have met with the same fate.

Trump signed the education order on the same day he welcomed the National Teachers of the Year to the White House.