By: Jeremy Skinner, J.D. Candidate, May 2019, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Since Donald Trump has taken office, the news has had trouble keeping up with some of the swift changes made by the Trump Administration. The news has had to report on policy reforms surrounding immigration, health care, and military spending. They have also had to cover more unconventional news stories such as scandals in the white house, firings of white house staff, and the Muller investigation. With a large quantity of stories to report, some stories are often overlooked. Some stories are small in comparison, but others, such as education reform, should not go unnoticed.

Both President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have indicated their desire to limit the federal oversight on education, something similar that President Obama did during his tenure. Unlike President Obama, President Trump signed an Executive Order that will cut an already scarce education budget by nearly thirteen percent or roughly 9.2 billion dollars. School programs that will feel the impact of this budget cut include, but is not limited to, college work study programs, public-service loan forgiveness, and mental health programs in public schools. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are implementing a plan that will expand school choice by providing funding to charter schools and voucher programs for private and religious schools, ultimately leaving public schools in the dust.

The United States, before President Obama signed the rewrite of “No Child Left Behind” education reform, ranked seventeenth in the world for educational performance. Less than two years after signing the bill, the United States jumped three spots to fourteenth in education. The difference between President Obama in this regard, and President Trump (so far) is that President Obama sought to expand public education funding whereas, President Trump and Betsy DeVos are seeking to reduce it. President Obama sought to increase public funding while simultaneously reducing federal government oversight in order to allow the local governments to meet their individual needs. President Trump is similar in respect to reducing federal oversight however, he is reducing public funding and instead placing the funding in private schools and charter schools.

Roughly ten percent of students or five million students in the K-12 school system attend private school. Students may attend private schools for a variety of reasons including religion, flexible curriculum, and sex education. With private schools, parents of children who attend are required to pay tuition thus making private school more expensive than public school. Public school systems have nearly fifty million students enrolled. Reasons for attending public school primarily include cost, but there are some public schools that offer programs, or are just as flexible with schedules and curriculum as a private school. When comparing public versus private schools there is not a clear answer, however, the Trump administration appears to believe that private schools are the better option despite that fact that the majority of students in the school system attend public schooling.

School vouchers allow a student to attend any school, public or private, at the cost of the local state government. School vouchers can be for a specific year, or a semester. While President Trump is seeking to allocate funding to voucher programs, the unfortunate reality is that not every student will have access to this voucher program. As a result, certain students will be receiving a higher education while the majority of students will receive a lower education because funding has been taken from the public school system.

While it is too early to say how the Executive Order signed by President Trump will affect the education system, it is worrisome that public education funding has been reduced. Under the current executive order, students will be left behind in the struggling public education system. President Obama sought to prevent such an instance from occurring by increasing public school funding and as a result the United States education system increased on the world scale. All eyes are on President Trump and Betsy DeVos to see just how their education reform affects the United States education system.