Education: Post Election and Pre-Inauguration

Trends in Education


After the election, the country entered a period of uncertainty. Trump won the electoral vote but Clinton won the popular vote. An effort was made to have recounts in several pivotal states, which was unsuccessful. Then several groups tried to convince state electors to change their vote on Dec. 19, given the split between Electoral College state results and the popular vote. It too proved unsuccessful.

This has been followed by a period of transition speculation during transition. There has been concern over Trump’s cabinet selections and the implications for how his administration would govern, and overturn legislation and regulations that were a center piece of Obama’s eight years in office.

While much has been written about “outsiders” being selected for the cabinet and White House staff, along with Trump’s campaign slogan “drain the swamp,” the fact is the swamp has not been drained nor has the group selected been made up of “outsiders.” To the contrary, most selected have had experience at the federal or state government, military or inside the Beltway. The nominee-to-be Secretary of State’s company led the lobbying effort to defeat sanctions against Russia, and others have been involved in trying to influence monetary policy while working in the private sector. No one is a neophyte nor naïve on how government works, but may have limited experience or exposure in government.


Recent polling data indicates that 50 percent of Americans approve of how the transition is moving. Several experts have found it to be quite different than transitions in the past.

At Education, the transition has been fairly quiet. Little mention has been made of who is being considered for key appointments. Mum is the word. One reason is the concern to have secretarydesignate Betsy DeVos confirmed without any problems. There has been some opposition. One can expect some tough questions over her education positions, and an outstanding fine. Once these hurdles are overcome then more names should surface.

Yes, there has been a flurry of people mentioned to be considered for some of the key positions. The latest include New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for either education deputy secretary or undersecretary, and former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek and Kent Talbert, former general counsel of the Department under President George W. Bush, for general counsel. Others who may be in the mix include Jeanne Allen, Andy Smarick, Gerard Robinson, Will Evers, Jim Manning, Chris Cerf, Peter Oppenheim and Brad Thomas.

Unfortunately, it is “wait and see.” More names should be surfacing as we get closer to Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. Some confirmation hearings may begin as early as the second week of January.


Republicans and president-elect Donald Trump will face a slew of tough legislative deadlines in 2017. It will be an abrupt change from 2016, when lawmakers faced few make-or-break dates except to avoid a government shutdown. Also, Democrats will have to address these dates. Some of the deadlines are:

  • Mar. 16: date the debt ceiling expires and without an extension the Treasury can no longer borrow money (see Treasuries)
  • Apr. 15: date by law that Congress must pass a budget resolution for the next fiscal year. The conventional wisdom is the Republicans may try to pass the budget resolution and an extension through the fiscal year for FY2016 that will include some tax reform and a termination of the Affordable Care Act. But the latter policy change has a mountain of problems.
  • Apr. 28: FY 2016 Continuing Budget Resolution expires and a new one must be passed or the government will be required to shutdown.
  • Apr. 30: Trump’s 100th full day in office — we shall see how much he can accomplish of what he promised during the campaign in this period given his party has control of both the House and the Senate.
  • Sept. 30: end of FY 2016
  • Sept. 30: authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration expires
  • Sept. 30: authorization for CHIP (children’s health program) expires.
  • Oct. 1: fiscal year 2017 begins and requires a budget and appropriation so the government can stay open.
  • Dec. 31: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Section 702) expires and without reauthorization the nation’s security apparatus will be handcuffed.


Other than the dates listed above, there are several actions that are “front and center” for the Trump Administration and a Republican majority Congress. The list includes:

  • Tax reform
  • Infrastructure legislation
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Repeal of numerous regulations promulgated during the Obama Administration — many of these are education regulations

Several legislative and policy issues will be addressed early by new secretary and/or the first session of 115th Congress including:

  • Immigration (includes Dreamers visas, and basic policy)
  • Reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
  • Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
  • Student financial assistance policies and practices — including Pell Grants and federally backed student loans. (See preview of Federal postsecondary education policy written by AASCU: www.aascu.org.
  • Selected ESSA regulations (accountability, supplement not supplant, teacher prep, gainful employment)
  • Regulations on for-profit postsecondary institutions including gainful employment
  • Civil rights rules, guidance and findings including regulations governing use of bathrooms by transgender students

You can anticipate additional efforts focused on the use of federal dollars to private schools, vouchers/school choice, teacher evaluations, assessment, etc.

We will learn more over time as to the shape of the U.S. Department of Education and the key players. It will take a while for the new group to get up and running. At least a bit longer than Congress since there is carry over of Republican leadership in both the Senate and House. Lamar Alexander will take an aggressive role to change some of the regulatory policy set by Obama as will Virginia Foxx, the new chair of the House Committee on Education and Workforce.

About the Author

Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. To subscribe, write [email protected].