What Homeschoolers Should Expect from President Trump
By Antony Kolenc
Written exclusively for Homeschool World, ©2017 Home Life, Inc., all rights reserved.
What will President Trump's policy be toward homeschooling?
(Photo from JStone / Shutterstock, Inc.)
all odds, President Donald J. Trump pulled out a come-from-behind victory over Hillary
Clinton by flipping the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and winning the
Electoral College. In the process, he won 81% of the white Evangelical vote, 52% of the Catholic
vote, 63% of white men, and 53% of white women. He lost the black and Latino votes by smaller
margins than Republican presidential candidates in recent elections—taking 8% of the black vote and
29% of Latinos. But he lost the national popular vote handily (thanks largely to California voters),
with Secretary Clinton capturing almost three million more votes.
What about the homeschool vote? Support from homeschoolers is not easily measured; however,
considering the demographic statistics above, it is likely that a majority of homeschooling
families supported Trump. In addition to issues important to all Americans—jobs, the economy, and
national security—he campaigned on important themes to home educators. In particular, he talked
about returning control of education to the state and local level, as well as expanding school
vouchers and ending Common Core.
So what should homeschoolers expect from a Trump Administration?
Support for Homeschooling
There is little doubt that President Trump will support the freedom of parents to educate their
children at home. It would be a mistake, however, to say he campaigned heavily on homeschooling
issues, or that he even catered to a home education constituency. He often spoke of charter schools;
however, his first major mention of homeschooling occurred in September 2016 at the Values Voter
Summit put on by the Family Research Council. Identifying school choice as a civil rights issue, he
stated, “School choice also means that parents can homeschool their children. Hundred percent.”
These are encouraging words, although they do not convey any indication of the legal positions Trump
might take on the matter as President.
More specific was the platform of the Republican Party as it headed into its national convention in
July with Trump at the helm. Also calling parental educational choice a civil right, one plank of
the platform supported “options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical
education, private or parochial schools”2 That plank, however, does not legally bind Trump in any
way as President. One legal action that Trump might support, however, is the one calling for an
amendment to the U.S. Constitution in favor of parental rights. Specifically, the platform stated,
“Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a
constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government,
or international bodies such as the United Nations.”3 Here, however, the President has no direct
power—he would need to rely on Congress to take the lead on such an amendment.
Local Control of Education
During the campaign, Trump sometimes mentioned the idea of breaking the federal hold over education
and encouraging more local governance. Some remarks he made, however, reveal a potentially weaker
commitment to this cause. For instance, at a CNN-hosted primary town hall in March 2016, Anderson
Cooper asked Trump about the “top three functions” of the federal government. In reply, Trump listed
education as the third major federal function. But many homeschoolers believe that the federal
government should have little or no role in education. Trump’s answer does not necessarily indicate
he is not serious about pushing education back down to the state level in some areas. It could
simply have been a poorly worded, unreflective answer at the time.
Indeed, Trump often spoke on the campaign trail about creating a 20 billion dollar set of “block
grants” at the federal level, to be sent to the states to spend on local education priorities.
Ideally, this would deflect funding from the federal level and give local school officials more
resources to implement their own state’s education priorities, to include potentially more local
support for homeschooling. True to his word, Trump included such a block-grant proposal in his
released plan for his first 100 days in office.
Expansion of School Vouchers
Part of President Trump’s 100-day plan includes not only the support of charter schools, but also
support for a robust voucher program to enhance school choice. Vice President Pence has some
experience in that arena, having overseen the most extensive voucher program at the state level
while governing Indiana. Trump’s 100-day plan supports “redirect[ing] education dollars to give
parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home
school of their choice,” and “bring[ing] education supervision to local communities.”4
If Trump means what he says, the expansion of a federal voucher program could offset the cost of
home education. This could alleviate some of the financial burden that homeschooling brings and that
the tax code reinforces. It could attract more parents to give home education a try. Yet some
homeschool lobby groups, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), continue to
oppose any government program that would provide tax dollars to homeschoolers.
The HSLDA’s opposition to vouchers is based on its belief that “this is outside the constitutional
authority given to the federal government and government funds often carry stipulations that limit
homeschoolers’ curriculum choices.”5 In other words, they are concerned that homeschoolers will
voluntarily give up the hard-fought freedoms that the HSLDA and other lobbying groups have achieved
over the years. By accepting the temptation of federal funding, families could find one day that the
government uses the leverage of such funds to enforce a curriculum such as Common Core, or to
require parents to teach doctrines in opposition to the their religious faith.
It remains to be seen whether President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will change
course based on the HSLDA’s advocacy, and whether they will withhold from homeschoolers the same
vouchers that some students will use to escape failing public schools. If Trump reverses his
position, some will no doubt argue that excluding home education from voucher programs treats
homeschoolers unequally from those brick-and-mortar schoolchildren eligible to receive vouchers.
Ending Common Core?
Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly addressed the issue of Common Core—a controversial set of
national standards pushed by President Barack Obama that had drawn the ire of homeschool advocates
and parents alike. On the campaign trail, Trump had inspired his supporters with cries to get rid of
Common Core and bring education back to the local level. In keeping with this message, the
Republican Party platform in July rejected “a one-size-fits-all approach to education,” and
encouraged states to reverse their participation in Common Core.
After the election, President-elect Trump stayed true to this campaign message. In his 100-day plan,
he promised again to end Common Core. Moreover, at one of his December “Thank You” rallies in
Michigan, he again emphasized his education goals, noting that his plan “includes eliminating Common
Core, bringing education local, and providing school choice.”6
Doubts crept in, however, when he tapped Betsy DeVos to be the next Secretary of Education. Ms.
DeVos was a major proponent of school vouchers, but had also been associated with groups supporting
Common Core. Almost immediately, she disavowed any support of Common Core; however, some still
wonder how deep that commitment extends. Whatever her prior support, she clearly took a strong
post-election position on the matter. Appearing with Trump at his “Thank you” rally in Michigan,
DeVos proclaimed that “making education great again means ‘finally putting an end to the federal
In reality, the states that adopted Common Core did so only partly to gain federal funding—many also
wanted to improve educational standards in their schools. Thus, even if President Trump reverses
that policy, states will still have the option to continue using standards identical to a “federal”
Common Core. If Trump follows through with his pledge, however, he will be on the road to
encouraging the abandonment of the national standards and incentivizing the development of more
In conclusion, expect four interesting years under President Donald J. Trump. He will likely be a
strong supporter of parenting rights; however, don’t expect major addresses from his “bully pulpit”
targeted specifically at home education. Indeed, perhaps the most memorable education events of the
Trump Administration will be the battles between home education lobbyists opposed to school vouchers
and an Administration that has made school choice and vouchers the centerpiece of its education
1. Brandt Edmonston, Homeschooling Back on the Campaign Trail: Trump Speaks at Values Voter Summit,
Sep. 19, 2016 (available
2. Andrew Mullins and Erin Reichard, RNC Platform Backs Home Ed: Will DNC Follow Suit?, Jul. 25,
4. Amita Kelly, Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days, Nov. 9, 2016 (available
5. Edmonston, supra note 1.
6. Susan Berry, Betsy DeVos at Trump Michigan Rally: Time to ‘Finally Put an End to Federal Common
Core,’ Dec. 9, 2016 (available
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