Trump vs Biden on Education Issues

by Carol Kocivar | October 2, 2020 | 0 Comments
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A Great Divide: Public Education vs Private

The education policies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden reflect deep philosophical differences about education in America.

Put simply, Biden has called for increased support for traditional public schools. Trump has proposed to reduce funding for traditional public schools and direct some of the money toward private and religious schools.

Key Differences, in brief

Trump's View

Biden's View

"School Choice, Vouchers, Charter Schools, Freedom, and Patriotism" are the words Trump chooses to define his view of education.

Trump's 2021 Budget

“The Department of education’s top priority is to promote education freedom: freedom for students and parents to choose the schools that best meet their needs; freedom for States and school districts to decide how best to meet the needs of their students; freedom to choose high-quality, affordable postsecondary options and career pathways that lead to fulfilling lives.”

"Support Teachers, Respect, and Invest" are the words that Biden chooses to define his view of education.

Biden Education Plan

“Support our educators by giving them the pay and dignity they deserve. Invest in resources for our schools so students grow into physically and emotionally healthy adults, and educators can focus on teaching. Ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability. Provide every middle and high school student a path to a successful career. Start investing in our children at birth.”

Background: The Federal Role in Education

The role of the federal government in public education has evolved over time.

The United States Constitution makes no mention of education. Public education in America began as a local matter and gradually became a responsibility of state governments. Federal funding for K-12 public education generally has accounted for less than 10 percent of overall funding, playing a greater role in schools where needs are greatest.

Political philosophies can have an impact on how funds are used. Historically, federal funds for education were intended to support states with basic funding, but some federal programs have been designed to create incentives for states and districts to adopt specific policies. For example, federal incentives implemented under the No Child Left Behind Act played an important role in the widespread measurement of success in schools and school systems using test scores and measurement of attendance.

Trump Policy Proposals for Education

In his inaugural address, President Trump said that America's public schools are “flush with cash." In every year of his administration he has proposed cuts to funding for public education. See details for each year: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021. For the past three years, Congress has disregarded these proposals.

This year the Trump administration proposes to eliminate 29 federal education programs by rolling them into a block grant that would dramatically reduce or eliminate federal involvement and oversight. According to a press release from the Department of Education:

“Our budget puts an end to education earmarks. Instead of Washington politicians and bureaucrats forcing local schools to spend limited resources on D.C.'s priorities, this budget proposes putting state and local leaders, teachers, parents, and students themselves in control of education.”

The Trump administration has consistently opposed proposals for meaningful additional Federal funding to meet the needs of traditional public schools in the face of the pandemic.

The President supports Education Freedom Scholarships (tax credits) that provide up to $5 billion annually in state-designed scholarship programs for private or religious schools. Tax credits reduce the money the government collects.

The federal government has special responsibilities for schools in Washington, D.C. As part of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, the Department of Education will award at least $85 million over the next five years for disadvantaged students from families with lower incomes in Washington, D.C. to attend private schools of their choice. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is the only federally-funded school choice program in the nation.

Legal Challenges

A recent legal battle over efforts to give COVID-19 aid to private schools is an example of the President’s push to direct public money toward private schools. The court ruled invalid (NAACP v DeVos) a U.S. Department of Education regulation requiring public schools to send hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds to private schools. You can find out more about the case here.

The Trump administration has lost other legal battles on education issues: blocking pandemic relief for non-citizen college students and failing to discharge student loan debt for defrauded students. Another legal challenge is brewing: The Education Department has threatened to withhold federal desegregation grants from states unless they ban transgender students from choosing the teams they compete on.

Biden Policy Proposals for Education

Education accounts for less than 2 percent of the federal budget. Vice-President Biden proposes to raise education funding in ways that would increase the federal education budget over the next ten years by about $850 billion. These include:

  • Triple funding for Title l, a program that supports schools with large numbers of children from low-income families.
  • Require districts to use these funds to offer educators competitive salaries and to support access to preschool for three- and four-year olds.
  • Double the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals employed in our schools, and partner with colleges to expand the pipeline of these professionals.
  • Expand the community school model to serve an additional 300,000 students and their families. Community schools are organized to support the non-academic needs of students, including health services, mental health, after school and social challenges.
  • Support legislation to improve public school buildings, prioritizing health risks. Additional funds will be used to build energy-efficient, innovative schools with technology and labs.
  • Fully fund special education within 10 years.
  • Make two year of community college free and cancel student loan debt for low- and middle-income borrowers who attended a public college or a private historically black institution.

Summary of Differences
Click each topic for background information




Federal Funding for public education



Federal funding for private and religious schools



Federal funding for for-profit charter schools



Federal funding for early education

Low priority

High priority

Support for small class sizes

Low priority

High priority

Career/Technical education



Funding of Federally-mandated special education costs

Supports small funding increase in 2021, reversing a pattern of controversial cuts to services for disabled students, including Special Olympics.

Supports full funding

Teacher support

Low priority, but supports grants for teachers and administrators in Opportunity Zones.

High priority

Community schools

Cuts funding


Charter Schools


Supports with accountability

School Choice

Supports private school vouchers and choice among public schools

Supports public magnet schools, high-performing public charters and traditional public schools

Private School Vouchers



School response to COVID

Open schools sooner to support economic activity

Open Schools later, when science indicates it is safe.

Gun Free School Zones



Civil Rights Guidanceon discipline/gender



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