“Meet the Congresswoman Poised to Tear Up Obama’s Education Legacy” blares a Politico headline above a piece on Virginia Foxx, the incoming leader of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. And it’s not wrong. A representative of North Carolina’s fifth congressional district, Foxx has thoroughly repudiated the top-down approach to education reform preferred by previous administrations. Her selection signals that Republicans in Congress want to continue devolving authority over education to the states, and that they may end up pushing the ambitious Trump administration in that direction.
With a conservative education secretary in Betsy DeVos, Foxx will have a natural ally in the White House. Foxx has long argued that the Constitution does not indicate that the federal government should lead on education. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Foxx was asked, “You don’t see any role for the federal government in encouraging [free community college] efforts at the state and local level?” “No,” she replied. “Why should we? We have a $20 trillion debt. Why should we go into debt to pay for what the states should be doing?”
Many on the right have been worried that a Trump’s administration would try to force education policy on the states from on high. For now, at least, that fear seems to be unfounded.