President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr’s administration is planning to undo the legacy of the Trump administration’s education policies by drastically increasing resources for public schools, expanding its civil rights advocacy for marginalized students and reasserting the department’s leadership in policymaking.
It is in stark contrast to the Trump-era policies led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a lifelong booster of private schools and longtime opponent of the teachers’ unions, set out to reduce the Education Department’s footprint by proposing cuts to public school funding and narrowing the department’s enforcement role of federal education laws and civil rights.
And on the most pressing issue facing education — reopening schools during the pandemic — the incoming Biden administration has signaled an about-face, planning a much more cautious approach.
The Trump administration has demanded that schools reopen, despite severe budget constraints and confusing public health guidelines, while the Education Department has all but absolved itself of tracking the virus’s impact and offering solutions. The Biden campaign has promised deep federal involvement to help schools secure more relief funding and navigate the effects of the pandemic, which has devastated the academic trajectory of the most vulnerable students.
Mr. Biden, whose wife, Jill Biden, is a community college professor and member of the National Education Association, has promised to appoint a secretary with teaching experience and a deep knowledge of the challenges schools face and the students they serve.
The Biden administration plans to restore Obama-era civil rights guidance — rescinded by Ms. DeVos — that offered transgender students the right to choose school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, that addressed the disproportionate disciplining of Black students and that pressed for diversity in colleges and K-12 classrooms. The restoration of those guidance documents can be done immediately because they were not put through the regulatory process or enacted into law.
Undoing what is arguably Ms. DeVos’s most formidable accomplishment — how federally funded schools should investigate cases of sexual assault — could be tougher. The incoming administration has vowed to dismantle those rules. As vice president, Mr. Biden had personally helped introduce the Obama-era guidelines on campus sexual misconduct that Ms. DeVos reversed through formal and protracted rule-making.