Trump order seeks to limit federal role in K-12 education

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that aims to reduce the federal government's role in K-12 education.

Trump is giving Education Secretary Betsy DeVos just short of a year -- 300 days -- to identify areas where Washington has overstepped its legal authority in education, and modify and repeal regulations and guidance from her department, if necessary. A report will be returned to the White House and eventually made public, officials said.

Trump complained that the government over the years has forced states and schools to comply with "federal whims." He said the order will help restore local control over education.

"We know that local communities do it best and know it best," Trump said, surrounded by governors, members of Congress and teachers. "The time has come to empower parents and teachers to make the decisions that help their students achieve success."

Republicans have long chafed at federal government involvement in education, asserting that states and local governments, school boards and parents are best positioned to decide what students learn. Antipathy toward the Education Department ramped up under Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, who offered states billions of dollars of federal money to help improve their schools in exchange for adopting certain academic standards.

 DeVos said time has shown that "one-size fits all policies and mandates from Washington simply don't work."

But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers' union, said the review was unnecessary because a bipartisan education law enacted in late 2015 had already shifted power from the federal government to states.

"This is a case of been there, done that," Weingarten said. She stressed that the law also contains key civil rights provisions that the federal government is obligated to uphold.

The Center for Education Reform, which advocates for charter schools, said Trump's executive order will promote innovation and freedom.

"Conducting such a review is part and parcel of ensuring that education innovation and opportunity are able to take root throughout our various education sectors," the organization said in a statement. "The connection between freedom and excellence is no secret."

Later Wednesday, Trump honored teachers as he welcomed the National Teacher of the Year and state-level winners to the Oval Office.

"There is nothing more important than being a teacher," he said.

Trump promised during the campaign to give state and local governments more control over education.

The executive order is one of several the president is signing this week as he seeks to notch accomplishments by Saturday, his 100th day in office.