The proposal reflects the degree to which Republicans want the next election to be waged around classrooms as much as boardrooms.
By Meridith McGraw
Former President Donald Trump is unveiling a 2024 education policy plan, one focusing heavily on the culture war components that have animated conservatives.
The plan, shared in advance with POLITICO, calls for cutting federal funding for any school or program that includes “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.” It also calls for opening “civil rights investigations into any school district that has engaged in race-based discrimination,” particularly against Asian American students, and promises to “keep men out of women’s sports.”
The proposals are not focused solely on social policy and school curriculum. In a video unveiling the plan, which was shared by his campaign, Trump also calls for making significant cuts to administrative personnel and the end of teacher tenure and the election of school principals.
“As the saying goes, personnel is policy and at the end of the day if we have pink-haired communists teaching our kids we have a major problem,” Trump said. “We’re at the end of the list on education and yet we spend the most, but we’re going to be tops in education no matter where you go anywhere in the world.”
Though large swaths of education policy are dictated by state and local governments, Trump’s proposals still represent a radical departure from long-standing approaches. Taken in full, they represent an attempt by the former president to put his own imprint on debates around the nation’s school systems that have popped up across state capitals.
Conservatives, for example, have pushed for restrictions on transgender athletes, even though transgender women have been allowed to compete in women’s categories in the Olympics since 2003 and the NCAA since 2010.
Just days ago, meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) — a potential 2024 competitor — blocked high schools in his state from teaching an Advanced Placement African American studies curriculum over what he described as the inclusion of topics like “queer theory” and movements that called for “abolishing prisons.”
The White House and education groups, including the College Board, have pushed back aggressively on DeSantis, arguing that he has no basis or credibility to make such determinations. More broadly, school administrators and progressive activists have noted that most public school officials across the country do not teach critical race theory, even in districts where lawmakers are seeking to ban it.
But Trump’s policy proposal underscores how primed Republicans are for these types of fights. During his time in office, the main thrust of Trump’s education platform was not so much on cultural elements as on a desire to expand school choice, including a federal tax credit to help parents pay for private school tuition.
Now running for office again, Trump is calling for a certification program for teachers who “embrace patriotic values” and “funding preferences and favorable treatment” for states and school districts that follow his calls for abolishing teacher tenure. He also calls for cutting administrative roles, and adopting a “parental bill of rights.” Trump said he would also remove “the radical zealots and Marxists” he claims have “infiltrated” the Department of Education.
© 2023 POLITICO LLC