October 30, 2020
How a Trump or Biden Administration May Affect Education Policy
Written By: By Chantal Wong and Lindsey Narkchareon
Education issues rarely make political headlines. But the upcoming election highlights just how important education policy is in America. With impacts reaching beyond the terms of presidents, how we support our students and teachers directly impacts the success of our workforce, our country and future leadership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened students’ and teachers’ needs – disproportionately impacting low-income, diverse students with little access to the technology and emotional support they need to succeed. The outcome of the election will further set the course for the success of our education system.
A recent Education Writers Association (EWA) podcast breaks down these questions with education journalists Lauren Camera with U.S. News & Report and Michael Stratford of Politico Pro: What would a second Trump term or a Biden first term look like for K-12 and postsecondary education?
The Trump administration has taken a regulatory approach on K-12 that prioritizes school choice and increasing access to charter schools. Stratford shared that a second Trump term is likely to focus on recent “culture war” issues. The administration promises to scrutinize wealthy universities’ foreign funding, Stratford said. Federal funding itself would likely decrease, as well. In February, the White House proposed significant cuts to federal school loan programs.
This year has also been extremely challenging for schools across the country, with a pandemic uprooting lives for both educators and students alike and facing a racial reckoning in the country. Lauren Camera spoke to how 2020 has laid bare vast inequalities and disconnects across the education spectrum; this includes childcare, relief funding, infrastructure and more. The need for steady mental health services is flagged as well, due to the toll the pandemic has taken on students already, Camera said.
For the past six months, the Trump administration has pressured schools to reopen while threatening to withhold federal funding – providing little guidance on how schools can get back on track. Struggling to find support, schools have asked for another relief package. Camera said school leaders are looking for leadership, but Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has stated it is not her responsibility to create a database to track cases and reopening plans.
How would Biden have handled the situation differently? He has not offered specific school plans, the reports said. Biden’s focus has been on public health: mandating masks, testing, following CDC guidelines as a way of laying the groundwork for schools to be able to handle the pandemic.
Stratford reviewed Biden’s higher education plans and his focus on funding and loan forgiveness. This year, amid the pandemic, Congress and the White House put student loan payments on hold. Biden stated that he wants to triple Title 1 funding, but Title 1 remains a bipartisan issue, tripling the amount of funding seems out of reach, Stratford said. Biden advocates free public colleges and universities for students from families with annual incomes below $125K. Increasing teacher wages, expanding mental health programs and staff at schools, and fixing school infrastructure (a bipartisan issue that has mostly left schools out of the picture) are on his priority list. However, states control many of these changes.
Additionally, Biden has proposed canceling a significant amount of student debt – especially for those who attended public schools and HBCUs and earn less than $125K. Even before the country’s racial reckoning began earlier this year, Biden cited how predominately white neighborhoods receiver $23 billion more funding than Black or Latino neighborhoods, the reporters said.
The pandemic has pushed many students off course this year. FAFSA applications for financial aid have dropped significantly – down more than 5% compared to last year – and we don’t know how many low-income students are dropping out of college at this time, the reporters said.
What lies on the other side of the election is unclear. Will there be another COVID relief package for schools? Who is left out of higher education as the pandemic rages on? Is the lack of high-quality childcare preventing students and families from attending higher education or getting good jobs?
You can listen to the full EWA podcast here.