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5 Education Stories To Watch In 2017

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5 Education Stories To Watch In 2017

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5 Education Stories To Watch In 2017

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Public education could be in for some big changes this year. President-Elect Donald Trump has brought new ideas, among them he's thrown his support behind charter schools. And to find out what all this could mean, we turned to NPR education correspondent Claudio Sanchez. Claudio has some predictions, including that we'll see a big fight over the billions of dollars that flow from the federal government to school districts across the country.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: The Trump administration is likely to encourage more private, for-profit groups to compete with public schools for that money. And as Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warns there will be a war over this money.

GREENE: A war. Now, the American Federation of Teachers is a big union, right. I mean...

SANCHEZ: They're one of the two big unions.

GREENE: So how are they - how are they responding here? Do they have plans on what to do?

SANCHEZ: Both the AFT and National Education Association, the other union, have vowed to oppose much of Trump's education agenda. Now, the biggest fights will unfold in Republican-led states where lawmakers have long argued that unions stand in the way of promising reforms because they're more interested in their dues-paying members than they are in children.

GREENE: OK, so the union's very angry. But, I mean, Claudio, we really can't talk about school choice without charter schools, right? They play a big role in that debate.

SANCHEZ: Oh, of course. It was really one of the cornerstones, if not the cornerstone, of his whole choice agenda. Now, the Trump administration's unconditional support for privately run, publicly funded charter schools is, I think, going to split the 25-year-old movement. Conservative sponsors of charters will side with Trump and his nominee for secretary of education. That's Betsy DeVos. She's a champion of charters in her home state of Michigan. Now, they're going to push for a major expansion of charter schools by shifting, not necessarily by increasing but by shifting more federal dollars to charters and by pressuring states to lift the cap on their growth. About 22 states have some kind of cap on the growth of charter schools. Bottom line is this, David - many conservatives in the movement view public education as a government monopoly and are intent on putting traditional public schools out of business through competition. This is their chance.

GREENE: Let's just talk briefly about college. We had so many people on our program who were just racking up so much debt and wondering whether a four-year college was worth it to them, if they should have put out all that money and just be mired in debt. Where does that go under Donald Trump?

SANCHEZ: I don't think it goes anywhere. I think the discussion about paying for college and the incredible amount of debt that some students incur, I think that's going to certainly be in the background, but I think that because he made so many promises about jobs growing, the manufacturing industry in this country, community colleges come into the picture here. I predict that community colleges will finally get the attention they've been clamoring for because for years they've been an afterthought, really, in higher education, even though they enroll more than half of all students who go on to some kind of post-secondary education after high school.

So community colleges' mission to educate and retrain Americans from all walks of life will likely get a lot of support from the Trump administration because he promised that he was going to try and connect higher education more closely to the jobs that are being created and the training that's going to be needed.

GREENE: Which often happens in community colleges.

SANCHEZ: Exactly. Now, the question is will it be more lip service? Or there may be a good chance that this is really going to help community colleges get more recognition and support to fulfill their mission.

GREENE: OK, that's NPR senior education correspondent Claudio Sanchez. Thanks for your predictions as always.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE PEOPLE'S "BASIQUE")

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