The political landscape for 2017 has left many wondering how the change in leadership will affect education. Where does STEM fit in? How will school choice shape education and is ESSA still applied?
STEM in the political landscape
On July 25, 2017, Secretary DeVos and Ivanka Trump hosted a summer reading event at the Smithsonian with the focus on STEM. They encouraged young students (ages six to ten) to be more engaged with STEM subjects.
The next day, and in support of STEM education, President Trump donated his second-quarter salary ($100,000) to help fund a STEM-focused camp for students. Secretary of Education Besty DeVos accepted the donation with gratitude and stated, "Today's and tomorrow's economy requires engaged students, boys and girls, prepared for STEM careers...we want to encourage as many children as possible to explore STEM fields in the hope that many develop a passion for these fields."
School choice and vouchers
More focus has been on school choice and the voucher system as it is currently promoted by the U.S. Department of Education. Colorado is one state with history and positive recorded results by allowing school choice in the form of charter schools since 1993. Their charter schools have consistently scored high in the top ten of school rankings—a small indication that school choice can possibly be another option in obtaining higher scores in students.
Denver Superintendent, Tom Boasberg, stated that Denver's school choice is focused on leveling the education playing field and promoting equality in education for highest-need families. In a message delivered to the American Legislative Exchange Council in Colorado on July 20, 2017, Secretary DeVos spoke of the need to expand charter schools and school vouchers. During this meeting, Colorado Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, remarked that the state's policy of a market-based approach to education has proven benefits for students.
Every Student Succeeds Act - will it change?
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed in 2015 by former President Obama. The ESSA allows states to have more flexibility in decision making regarding educational opportunities that best meet their students' needs. Each state decides on its own educational goals for their students and presents their individual plans to the Secretary of Education for approval.
This year, the State Educational Agencies (SEA) worked with the Department of Education to streamline the State plan template to include only the non-negotiable and minimal information required for each state's plan to be approved. Believing that individual states know best how to direct the educational goals for their students, Secretary DeVos required the simpler template designed for local decision-making and states that it enhances "innovation, flexibility, transparency, and accountability."
Education policy for the future
So far, the political landscape seems to focus on sustaining initiatives and acts that have been in place for STEM and ESSA. Further expansion of school choice and vouchers has also become a main focus. Yet, only time will tell how the changing political landscape will continue to influence education policy for better or worst in the upcoming years.