If Trump truly supports choice he’ll leave well enough alone

If Trump truly supports choice he’ll leave well enough alone

There can be little question that Donald Trump has been one of the least predictable candidates ever to attain a high office–not to mention the presidency–and to a certain extent, his attainment was assisted by his very unpredictability. In that regard, Speaker Paul Ryan said just last Sunday on 60 Minutes, “He’s going to be an unconventional president.”

But, sooner or later, people begin to yearn for a little taste of consistency. It’s like watching a David Lynch film–the imagery may be enchanting but still, to maintain your involvement, you want a little bit of plot in the mix.

While running, Candidate Trump made the proclamation “Keep education local!” Approximately a month later, during the primary debate in Miami when explaining why he considered Common Core a disaster, Mr. Trump said, “I want local education, I want the parents and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great.” When pressed for more clarity, he declared that the standards were “education through Washington D.C.”

Similarly, on the topic of school choice, the President Elect has been remarkably consistent.  In September of this year he said, “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”

Needless to say, he demonstrated that commitment with the announcement that he will nominate Betsy DeVos, a well-known advocate of vouchers and charters, to be Secretary of Education. When doing so he said, “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system, and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education, and school choice to all families.”

So, it would seem that the President Elect’s take on education policy has two complimentary themes: local control and parental choice. Taken in their totality, these perspectives should equate to less involvement by Washington D.C., not more, meaning that Mr. Trump and his Cabinet will need to entrust the states with policy development, decision-making and regulation.

That tact is one that has proven to be notoriously difficult for federal officials, who tend to encourage decentralization only when the governance of states and districts conform to national priorities. If our future chief executive truly is “unconventional,” his presidency will need to do something no administration since Carter’s has done: put teaching ahead of regulatory edicts.

And that, by the way, will mean that any scheme for educational options should be determined locally, not dictated by national mandates, no matter how well intentioned.