Trump administration brings new ideas for US education system

Caelin Mills

With the election of President Donald Trump and his appointment of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, the debate over the idea of “school choice” is in the spotlight.

School choice refers to the idea that parents should have more choices when deciding how their child receives their education, usually through voucher programs that pay for a student to attend a private or charter school, rather than the public school in their district.

The goal is to create more competition in the education system, forcing public schools to offer a better education to compete with the education offered from the private and charter schools.

Assistant professor of political science Casey Boyd-Swan said she doesn’t think the solution is that simple.

“The truth is that we don’t really have a clear idea of which policy changes would make our school system better on a federal scale,” Boyd-Swan said.

She said she believes there are pieces of previously implemented policies that have worked, even though it becomes partisan.

“What’s partisan is the policy tool. If you have a policy tool that looks like school vouchers, that’s a policy tool that typically is upheld by the Republican side, bringing things back to the market. On the Democrats’ side, you have policy tools such as more standardized curriculum,” Boyd-Swan said.

The College Republicans and the College Democrats remain divided on the issue, as well.

Vice president of the College Republicans Jacob Tabler said he thinks creating more competition within the education system is a good idea.

“Education is a commodity and should be treated as such. You need a moral level of competition between educational areas to let them excel and create a better product at a lower cost,” Tabler said.

Tabler, like many Republicans, said he believes the federal government has too much control over the education system.

“Ideally, more power is left to the individual states. Local municipalities are better able to dictate education in their areas for what their schools need,” Tabler said.

This aspect of the issue crosses party lines, as vice president of the College Democrats Anthony Erhardt agreed.

“I agree with Republicans that education shouldn’t be centralized within the federal government. States can allow students to better succeed, but putting it in the hands of those whose sole purpose to profit isn’t the way to do that,” Erhardt said.

However, teachers unions, whose political donations overwhelmingly go to Democratic politicians, have vocalized their opposition of school choice and voucher systems.

Erhardt said we should listen to their warnings.

“Teachers unions are one of the strongest voices for education out there. We should probably listen to them if they say this hinders their ability to teach students,” Erhardt said.

Boyd-Swan concluded that the central focus of fixing the broken education system in the United States should be the children.

“When we invest in kids and actually make a difference in the classroom in terms of the quality and the quantity of resources that they have access to, we can improve their educational development,” Boyd-Swan said.

Caelin Mills is the student politics reporter, contact her at [email protected].