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Betsy DeVosK-12

What does Trump's executive order on education do? Not much

 (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

President Trump is giving Education Secretary Betsy DeVos 300 days to look over previous administrations' actions in search of government overreach in K-12 education.

Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that, according to Rob Goad, a senior Department of Education official, strikes down "top-down mandates that take away autonomy and limit the options available to educators, administrators, and parents."

The language seem aimed at the Obama administration, which used funding competitions and the enforcement of civil rights law to have an outsized impact on education nationwide. The Trump administration already has begun rolling back some Obama initiatives, such as protections for transgender students. DeVos' staff is creating a task force aimed at curtailing and repealing regulations they deem to be overstepping local control of schools.

It is unclear, however, whether an executive order would in any way expand the limits of DeVos' authority. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act — the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act — circumscribes the Education secretary's power, particularly when it comes to altering states' curriculums or teacher evaluations.

“Rather than another executive order, perhaps the president and DeVos need to read the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.

Goad said the executive order "empowers [DeVos] to modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law." When pressed, he conceded that she already could do that.

DeVos and administration officials, by the way, have repeatedly said they would end the Common Core, but that's a local issue that the Every Student Succeeds Act bars the secretary from touching.

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