In his first visit to Iowa since announcing a 2024 presidential bid, former President Donald Trump laid out what he wants for American schools should he win: universal school choice, changes in school curriculum, elected school principals and to “break up” the U.S. Department of Education.
“This is what must be done to save our country from destruction,” said Trump to the crowd in Davenport, Iowa, during a speech intended to address education, among other priorities of his campaign. Republicans, including one of Trump’s expected rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have seized on culture wars in education as a way to make inroads with prospective voters.
Trump, who spoke about a host of issues before turning to education, said he will cut federal funding for any school pushing “critical race theory,” “transgender insanity” or “any other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content on our children.”
And in alignment with his executive order allowing federally funded private school choice, he commended Iowa leaders for creating a school voucher program that will eventually be available to every student in the state.
“I said the other day I will bring back parental rights into our school system, and the place went crazy,” he said. Monday’s crowd, too, reacted with cheers, whistles and claps when he declared, “As president, I’ll fight to expand that right to every single state in America.”
What are Trump’s other education plans?
- On COVID-19 regulations: “I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or mask mandate from kindergarten through college.”
- On student achievement following school closures: “We will be the administration that commits to get the kids back on track and quickly… This must be our priority. It has to be.”
- On school leaders: He said he will “support the direct election of school principals by the parents.”
- On the bureaucracy of the U.S. education system: “Breaking up the Department of Education is a very simple thing to do.”
- On school curriculum: “What they’re teaching in schools today is insane.”
- On transgender students participating in sports based on their gender identity: “People are seriously in favor of having it done, and I don’t understand it.”
What is Trump’s track record on education?
The Trump administration took a number of steps to try to change K-12 schools and colleges. Some of his policy changes or proposals include:
- Issuing an executive order authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to allow states to use Community Services Block Grant funding to pay for private and home schools, learning pods and micro schools;
- Strengthening protections for students accused of sexual misconduct in schools under the federal Title IX law;
- Countering the New York Times’ 1619 project by launching the 1776 Commission, created to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union;”
- Rolling back Obama-era guidance on restorative school discipline practices. In 2018, the Trump administration banned federal officials from intervening in how schools choose to discipline their students, unless they specifically violate federal law; and
- Directing the Treasury Department to review the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities, accusing them of “indoctrination.”
- Defunding schools that use classroom history curriculum that includes racial and ethnic studies, which Trump dubbed “liberal indoctrination of America’s youth;” and
- Arming teachers in the name of school safety.
DeSantis plugged education record in Iowa, too
During his own trip to Iowa last week, DeSantis touted his record on educationincluding taking aim at “pornographic” books and “activist” agendas in schools. At one appearance, he received a standing ovation when he spoke about parents’ rights to decide what their kids should be learning in public schools.
A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows DeSantis is viewed favorably by 74% of Iowa Republicans — nearly on par with the 80% who view Trump favorably. But a greater share of Iowa Republicans views Trump unfavorably: 18% compared with DeSantis’ 6%.
“I think we really have done a great job of drawing a line in the sand to say the purpose of our schools is to educate kids, not to indoctrinate kids. We believe in the rights of parents,” DeSantis said, before his words were drowned out by cheers.