It’s been a week since the United States selected its next leader. The education policy platform of President-elect Donald J. Trump is largely a mystery. He’s mentioned school choice – specifically, giving poor students vouchers to attend any school, whether private, traditional public or charter – and various experts estimate that will cost $20 billion in federal spending and another $110 billion from the states. He’s signaled that he is no fan of the U.S. Department of Education, so it’s not a stretch to say that department might be shuttered. And following that line of thought to its logical conclusion means considering the closure of the Office of Educational Technology as a possibility.
Will schools continue to accelerate the pace of blended learning – which incorporates technology into classes along with in-person instruction? Will states enable schools to pursue personalized learning strategies, which make use of technology to create custom-fit lessons for students?
No one knows.
Doug Levin, president of the consulting firm Ed Tech Strategies, is worried. “Federal support, affiliation with Connected Ed, Future Ready, Go Open, and the threat of [Office of Civil Rights] action for unequal access, the convenings, speeches, reports and toolkits – all of it, including the personnel – it could get halted, shifted or eliminated on the first day of a Trump administration,” he wrote in a series of Twitter posts.
And what do questions like that create?
“The lack of certainty is a likely negative for the cause of innovation in the pursuit of creating an education system that allows all students to fulfill their potential,” wrote Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute and an executive editor at Education Next. But he added that a Trump administration could bring innovation through school choice and deregulation in public schools.
Since winning the election, Trump has returned to Twitter to share his views with the world. But he’s devoted no time yet to explaining what his vision is for America’s children. He did say, however, in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes,’ that one of his biggest priorities as president will be to deport or imprison up to three million people who are in the United States illegally.
Educators are coping with how to comfort children who are now coming to school frightened by this rhetoric.
Last week Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Schools, and a blended learning leader, shared a message on Twitter saying that educators should comfort children of color who are afraid. This, it turns out, was a controversial thing to say. Local leaders have called on him to apologize, and a petition calling for his resignation was launched online.
Under new federal law, a lot of power over education was recently returned to the states, which opens a range of opportunities for schools. But the federal government still holds power over important levers – namely, funding – that could accelerate or dampen efforts to innovate in schools. To name one important example, E-Rate is a federal program that provides money for school internet connections. That money was recently increased, and programs to offer children out-of-school connections were given more money, too. But a new administration could switch course, choosing to use that money elsewhere or cut back on spending altogether.
Advocates are racing to bring their views to the new administration, and urging educators to say something.
“Your voice can help ensure education technology has a seat at the planning table during the upcoming Presidential and Congressional transition period,” wrote the Consortium for School Networking, a Washington, D.C.-based professional membership organization for school technology professionals.
Gerard Robinson, of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, and Williamson M. Evers, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, have been key advisors to Trump’s campaign. It remains unclear if those voices will hold sway after the transition.
Trump has not yet named his choice for U.S. Secretary of Education. But he has named his two top leaders in his administration. One is the editor of Breitbart News, a website that is widely viewed as a publisher of extreme right points of view – some even say it is racist and anti-Semitic. There has been some attention to education issues on Breitbart, however. In the last nine years of operation, the website has written the words “blended learning” five times and “personalized learning” eight times.