How will the 2020 Biden-Trump election impact K-12?

If Democrats take Senate, there may be quicker movement on a wider K-12 relief package, lobbyist says
By: | October 20, 2020
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The homework gap and connecting all students to the internet will remain one of the key K-12 challenges facing either Don Trump’s or Joe Biden’s administration after the 2020 election.

The second HEROES Act provides $12 billion for Internet access, hotspots and computing devices. This would cover the current emergency, but a more permanent solution is needed to close the homework gap, says Jon Bernstein, an education, technology and communications lobbyist who is president of the Bernstein Strategy Group.

Significantly greater investments are needed to connect all students’ homes to broadband and to defray those internet service costs. All students also need computing devices that are adequate for online education.

“Kids can’t use a cell phone to write papers or conduct research,” Bernstein says.

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Democrats are expected to retain the House of Representatives. If they also take over the Senate, there may be quicker movement on a K-12 relief package by a Congress controlled by a single party, regardless of who the president is, Bernstein says.

“There seems to be a good likelihood of the Senate flipping,” he says. “If that happens, you may see things come together quickly early in January or February.”

That could include an education jobs bill that’s similar to policies enacted as part of the Barack Obama administration’s response to the 2008 Great Recession.

A relief package steered by the Democratic party could also provide funding for professional development in teaching online and keeping students engaged while learning remotely for several hours a day.

“Teachers need more professional learning opportunities so they can deliver content online to the same effect as they would in front of c classroom,” he says. “That’s going to take some money.”

A Democratic relief package could also include assistance for schools in assessing student academic growth during online learning.

“If we don’t assess, not only do we not know if kids are learning, we also don’t know where to go with resources,” he says.

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If Trump wins, and the Senate doesn’t change hands, Republicans will surely continue to try to steer resources toward private and charter schools, and tie funding to individual students.

Trump has also called for a more pro-American curriculum in schools, even though the federal government doesn’t have much of a role in setting K-12 curriculum,  Bernstein says.

“Other than the push to give parent options with private and charter schools, I don’t see any other substantive policy changes a second Trump administration would make,” Bernstein says. “They would double down on what they’re already doing, which is to try to rip up red-tape regulation and give parents more choice.”

As for the Department of Education, secretaries of education do not often stay for a second term. Betsy DeVos has made no indications of her plans if Trump is re-elected, but if she leaves, Trump could appoint someone from within the department, Bernstein says.

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The Biden campaign has been tight-lipped about potential cabinet picks, but Berstein says the Democrat, if elected, could tap someone with higher education experience.

Ultimately, a continuing pandemic and the economic fallout could preclude any sweeping education initiatives by the next administration, Bernstein says.

“If Biden wins, it may be about restoring stability and trust while grappling with the double economic and public health emergency,” Bernstein says.”If you’re constantly dealing with crisis management, there’s not much time left for a big plan. Job one is righting the ship.”