Washington Examiner reporters are exploring what 2018 has in store in a number of areas, from the White House and Congress to energy and defense. See all of our year ahead stories here.
The Department of Education has its sights set on regulatory reform in 2018. Led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who often speaks out against what she calls a "one-size-fits-all" approach to education, the department is focused on reviewing rules and requirements issued by previous administrations, seeking to curb what she says is federal overreach.
That review will involve further consideration of the Obama administration's Title IX guidelines on how campuses should handle sexual assault, which DeVos rescinded to the applause of many observers on both the Left and Right in September. A department source told the Washington Examiner they are working to have the draft rule out by March.
The source summarized the department's broader goal as "reducing overreach the department has engaged in in the past," in an effort to "[free] up educators and administrators and institutions to actually serve students rather than be more worried about compliance."
Other priorities for DeVos will involve a further review of a gainful employment rule that proponents say protects students at for-profit colleges but which DeVos calls "overly burdensome." The department also is reviewing borrower defense regulations, which establish when a student is eligible for federal relief given to students who have been defrauded by their schools.
On the K-12 level, a possible two-year delay of the "significant disproportionality" rule will likely be opened up for comment as well. The rule is a requirement that states note "when districts … discipline children from any racial or ethnic group at markedly higher rates than their peers."
Looking ahead to next year, press secretary Liz Hill told the Washington Examiner that the department’s "Regulatory Reform Task Force will continue its scrutiny of regulations and significant guidance during 2018."
Hill pointed specifically to Title IX's college sexual assault provisions and Every Student Succeeds Act guidelines as areas of focus. "The department recently announced in its fall 2017 Uniform Regulatory and Deregulatory Agenda a number of initiatives that will occur in the coming year, such as rescinding K12 regulations that do not comply with ESSA and proposing a rule on Title IX that corrects the deficiencies of Obama-era guidance." Under ESSA, the successor to No Child Left Behind, the federal government's regulatory hands have been tied in many ways, creating a devolution in education regulatory power to the state level.
As for school choice, the only federal action is likely to be implementing the expansion of 529 college savings accounts to include K-12 public and private school expenses. That expansion, part of the GOP tax reform bill, originally included homeschool expenses, but a Senate parliamentarian ruling ended that.
DeVos praised the expansion, but said it “doesn't address the needs of parents who are from lower incomes.” DeVos is a proud supporter of school choice, but it’s not clear what federal action she would take on the issue, aside from using her bully pulpit to support legislative action at the state and federal levels.
Congressional action on school choice could include an expansion of the District of Columbia's school voucher program, education savings accounts for military families, or a tax credit for organizations that give out private school scholarships, but it’s tough to see those as a priority for a Congress that already has a lot on its plate.
• Jason Russell contributed to this report.