Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s plan to eliminate the United States Department of Education could lead to more than 500,000 teacher layoffs, according to a report by the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund.
Trump has repeatedly said the Department of Education is full of waste and has promised to cut it to “shreds.” In some speeches, he has called for the outright elimination of the department. In others, Trump has suggested that he would just drastically downsize its operations.
Outright elimination of a cabinet agency like the Department of Education, or significant cuts in federal funding to the department, would require Congressional approval. However, a Republican-controlled House and Senate could approve the large cuts that Trump has suggested during the annual appropriations process. They could also pass a standalone bill to eliminate the department entirely, although Democratic objections could make passing such legislation difficult.
If Trump and Republicans succeeded in eliminating or slashing the department, CAP researchers Will Ragland and Ulrich Boser find that the loss of federal funding provided by the Department of Education would have devastating effects on millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country.
By eliminating the federal aid that helps schools across the country hire and pay teachers, 490,000 teach positions could be eliminated. Aid specifically targeted at schools with high numbers of low-income students would be slashed, affecting 9 million children. At the same time, 5 million students with disabilities could be affected by the elimination of funding that helps ensure they receive a high-quality, equal education.
Likewise, special funding that ensures that children in military families and children who live on Native American reservations would be eliminated. That cut would potentially lead to teacher layoffs and other cutbacks affecting 750,000 students.
Finally, special aid that benefits children who are learning how to speak English or come from families that do not speak English fluently at home would also be cut. That special funding, which helps integrate children into American society and ensures their success in the workforce, benefits nearly 10 percent of American children.
College students would also not be spared Trump’s cuts. The Department of Education provides Pell Grants, small amounts of funding that help pay for college, to millions of students. If it were eliminated, at least 8 million young people from low-income or middle-class families would lose their Pell Grant assistance and could be forced to leave school.
The Trump-Pence campaign does not make specific reference to eliminating the Department of Education or the impact of such a policy decision on its website or in its position papers. Instead, Trump focuses on “reprioritizing” federal education dollars towards school choice.
The enigmatic billionaire also blasts Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s connections to labor unions like the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Clinton has made reducing the cost of college, a centerpiece of her campaign and of her campaign’s outreach to millennials. However, Clinton has also waded into K-12 education policy, arguing that she would launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the profession of teaching, particularly focused on supporting public school teachers.