Election Implications Loom for Federal Education Leadership, Education Research Funding

November 2016

With the transition to the incoming Donald Trump administration now underway, indications about possible key education and science appointments are closely being tracked by the research community in Washington, D.C. On November 23, President-elect Trump announced the selection of Betsy DeVos, chairwoman for the American Federation for Children, as the Secretary of Education.

James F. Manning, who previously served under President George W. Bush as well as President Barack Obama, is leading the education landing team that began working with Department of Education staff this month. Gerard Robinson, former state chief in Virginia and Florida and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has also been listed as an advisor on the education transition team. No names have yet been circulated for key science transition advisors.

Member retirement and election outcomes of the Senate and House races will also affect federal funding for and policy concerning education research. Republicans maintain a narrow majority in the Senate and House.

Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) retired, leaving her position as the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, including for Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee (CJS). Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will replace Mikulski as ranking member for the full committee, but it has not yet been announced who will assume the ranking member position for CJS. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who won reelection last week, is expected to maintain her role as ranking member of both the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (an appropriations subcommittee) and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP).

Both Murray and HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have stated their desire to pass a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in the coming Congress.

In the House, John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, retired. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who has a strong interest in higher education, is expected to take the gavel.

Appropriators Mike Honda (D-CA) and David Jolly (R-FL) both lost their seats. Honda, the most senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, has been a champion for science, the National Science Foundation, and specifically funding for education research during his time in the House.

In 2008, Rep. Foxx (R-NC) offered the amendment to the 2008 HEA reauthorization that currently prohibits the Department of Education from developing a student unit record system.  Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) is expected to become the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee next year, replacing current Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who was term-limited in the post under House GOP rules.

During the campaign, Trump spoke of investments in infrastructure, tax cuts (resulting in reduced revenue), and getting rid of the Defense sequester. Lifting the caps for defense spending would further reduce the amount of the federal budget that would be available for non-defense programs. Throughout the research community and beyond, there is great concern that these expensive plans, particularly while sequestration is still in place, will lead to deep cuts in the non-defense discretionary budget that includes a wide variety of priorities such as education, scientific research, infrastructure, national parks and forests, environmental protection, some low-income assistance, and public health, as well as many basic government operations including law enforcement, courts, and tax collection.

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