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Executive Orders Impact Public Education Directly and Indirectly… AND For the Better!

January 21, 2021

Yesterday, in his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 Executive orders that overturned some of the most contentious and odious actions taken by his predecessor. The NYTimes Aishvarya Kavi summarized them in an article and this post flags those that will directly or indirectly impact public education. The first section of her article described orders that will address the Pandemic:

Though it is not a national mask mandate, which would most likely fall to a legal challenge, Mr. Biden is requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks on all federal property and by all federal employees. He is also starting a “100 days masking challenge” urging all Americans to wear masks and state and local officials to implement public measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This “masking challenge” will undoubtedly land on school board agendas across the country and could provide an incentive for schools to work with community leaders to promote the voluntary use of masks.

Three executive orders that Ms. Kavi bundled under the heading Racial and LGBTQ Equality will have a direct and immediate impact on schools:

Mr. Biden will end the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted the role of slavery in the United States, among other history. Mr. Biden also revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training.

The president designated Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a “robust, interagency” effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work. His order directs the agencies to review and report on equity in their ranks within 200 days, including a plan on how to remove barriers to opportunities in policies and programs. The order also moves to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits and services. It starts a data working group as well as the study of new methods to measure and assess federal equity and diversity efforts.

Another executive order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by Mr. Trump’s administration.

This is hopefully the beginning of a great unwinding of the horrific policies and deregulation that occurred during the tenure of Betsy DeVos and AG Barr. These Executive Orders could be the most far reaching of all if they are fully implemented.

Two of the Presidents edicts on the Economy will indirectly impact schools:

Mr. Biden is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies, including the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Departments, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages that was enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The extensions all run through at least the end of March.

The president is also moving to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September, although progressive groups and some congressional Democrats have pushed Mr. Biden to go much further and cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person.

As noted in many earlier blog posts, there is a high correlation between transience and school performance as measured by standardized tests… and a similar correlation between transience and food insecurity. If parents and their children do not have to worry about the loss of shelter it relieves some stress… but an extension to the end of March is hardly the reprieve or clarity needed to bring about peace of mind.

President Biden also issued a series of executive orders on immigration, none of which appear to have a direct impact on the governance of schools but all of which convey a message that immigrants are far more welcome in our nation and will lift any psychological burdens school children feel as a result of pressures their parents are feeling.

In all, the President and his team have done an admirable job of identifying the most egregious policies put in place by Executive Order in the Trump era and are showing a new direction.

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