Apr 27, 2017 by


Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the White House on Wednesday. She has a mandate to review education guidelines. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued a sweeping review of federal education policies on Wednesday in an executive order to pinpoint areas where the government may be overstepping in shaping operations of local school systems.

The order requires Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s education secretary, to review, modify and possibly repeal any regulations and guidelines that are not consistent with federal law.

Mr. Trump described the order as “another critical step to restoring local control,” and one that fulfills one of his campaign promises.

“For too long, the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference to sign the order. “The result has been education that spends more, and achieves far, far, far less.”

A New York Times investigation found that before he took his post in the Education Department, Mr. Eitel spent 18 months as a top lawyer for a company facing multiple government investigations, including one that ended with a settlement of more than $30 million over deceptive student lending.

Mr. Trump’s order was lauded by the Center for Education Reform, which advocates school-choice policies. In a statement, its founder, Jeanne Allen, said that conducting the review was “part and parcel of ensuring that education innovation, and opportunity, are able to take root throughout our various education sectors.”

“The process will also allow the public to learn just how much oversight occurs as a result of bureaucracy, not law, and pave the way for all schools to focus on outcomes, not compliance,” Ms. Allen said.

But other observers said the order stands to have little impact on large-scale reforms already underway, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, and bedrock laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which governs the education of special education students. And the Common Core standards, which neither Ms. DeVos nor Mr. Trump supports, were adopted by states at their own volition.

“The bottom line is that the law is still the law, and an executive order can’t override that,” said Kelly McManus, interim director of legislative affairs at the Education Trust, a Washington think tank.

Ms. McManus said the organization is also concerned about the Education Department’s watchdog role being diminished.

“The good states need the cover of the federal government, and the bad actors need to be pushed by the federal government,” she said.

Where the order could have the most impact is in the area of civil rights, in which the Obama administration issued a series of guidance documents.

One of the Trump administration’s first acts was rescinding earlier Education Department guidelines that urged states to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Mr. Trump’s order “dangerous and wrongheaded.”

“State and local primacy without federal oversight in America’s schools has never worked for all children and will not work now,” Mr. Henderson said in a scathing statement.


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