Traditionally, the first 100 days of a new presidential administration get a lot of special attention. They can, and often do, set the tone and direction of the 1,360 other days that will follow. It's axiomatic in Washington that it's better to get the big things done early, while there's plenty of momentum to ride.
At the Department of Education, where both bureaucratic inertia and the influence of the educational establishment (especially teachers unions) are very strong, it will be critical to tear up the top-down mindset that has guided the agency since it was created in 1979. President-elect Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a fresh, worldly and bold thinker that's desperately needed at the helm of the department.
To truly set a bold path for innovation and opportunity in education, The Center for Education Reform urges a new course in four areas:
Spending. An intricate and suffocating web of funding restrictions on how federal money can be spent at the local or state level is the largest single barrier to innovation and opportunity in our schools. The most important innovation in education over the past three decades, charter schools, were able to make enormous progress because they were exempted from federal and local regulations. But their progress is now being undermined by the threat of funding cutoffs if they don't toe the line.
Teaching. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which was enacted at the end of 2015 to replace No Child Left Behind, was intended to reverse top-down federal control over things like teacher certification, classroom size, and the use of non-traditional teaching methods. But the department's implementation of regulations and guidance go in the opposite direction, putting up new federal roadblocks at every turn.
Higher Education. Staggering increases in the cost of a college education are a serious problem, but it's only part of the story. Less than 60 percent of students who enter college go on to graduate, and fewer than 30 percent at public universities graduate in four years or less. Students want more options for getting a university education, options that are denied them by a higher education cartel offering only the prospect of carrying crippling loan debt for decades into the future. It's time to identify the impediments to offering quality higher education at lower cost. The vast majority of those obstacles come in the form of suffocating and senseless regulation.
Educational Choice. In 2017, despite 30 years of enormously positive experience with educational choice, the federal government still delivers funds and imposes rules based on last century's model of education. Opportunity scholarship programs are very popular where they've been given a chance – Washington, D.C., and Cleveland, for example – and it's been 14 years since the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of voucher programs. It's high time that we made parental choice a foundational principle of elementary and secondary education.
This will be nothing less than a revolution in our educational system. But the hour has come for a revolution that's been needed for many years. The Trump administration is the agent of change that can bring about that revolution. Let's get on with it.
Jeanne Allen (@JeanneAllen) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is CEO and founder of the Center for Education Reform. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.