Advocacy Update: Presidential Election Analysis

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Election Results by the Numbers*

  • Total Votes Cast for Joe Biden:
    79,795,023 (51.0%)
  • Total Votes Cast for Donald Trump:
    73,768,906 (47.2%)
  • Current Senate Breakdown:
    Republicans 50 | Democrats 48
  • Current House Breakdown:
    Democrats 222 | Republicans 204

*as of Nov. 23, 2020

Biden Administration: K-12 Priorities


Federal education funding could look much different under a Biden administration. During the campaign, Biden put forward proposals to triple funding for the Title I program, provide new funding for school infrastructure, dramatically increase federal spending for special education, and provide federal supports for funding universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-old children. He has also said he would double the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers in schools.


Massive shifts in K-12 policy could be in order as well. President-elect Biden’s ambitious agenda for K-12 education will depend on the balance of power in Congress and which party controls the Senate (more below). At the top of the new administration’s K-12 agenda will be confronting the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools. After providing $13 billion in emergency funding for K-12 schools in March, the Trump administration and Congress have so far been unable to pass additional coronavirus response funding for schools. Beyond funding, the Biden administration could look for other ways to support schools in the aftermath of coronavirus on issues such as addressing learning loss, beefing up in-school mental health supports, and strengthening access to and quality of remote learning

Executive Orders and Regulatory Action

The Biden administration will also likely look to executive orders and regulatory action that do not require congressional consent:

  • Addressing disparities in school discipline: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits policies and practices that intentionally discriminate against minority students. The Obama administration applied a “disparate impact” approach to school discipline, releasing guidance indicating that disparities in suspension and expulsion rates could be seen as evidence of discrimination. The Trump administration repealed the guidance. The Biden administration will very likely reinstate it.
  • Boosting diversity and supporting desegregation: The Biden campaign’s platform states that he “will reinstate Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies.” To address this, the administration could write new guidance that clarifies how school officials can use and coordinate federal education funding to support desegregation strategies as a component of school improvement.
  • Testing and accountability: During the campaign, President-elect Biden indicated that he would reduce the role of standardized tests in schools. So far though, the former vice president hasn’t committed to doing away with summative assessments. One potential outcome is a mix of waivers and guidance. The waiver might allow states to adjust the use of assessment results for the purposes of school accountability with guidance about ways to strike the “right balance” of tests required by the state and used by districts. This approach builds on current state work to redesign summative assessments and the Obama “Testing Action Plan” of 2016.

Senate Control Undetermined, Eyes On Georgia

What does Georgia have to do with Biden administration’s K-12 agenda? Well, a lot. As it currently stands, Republicans hold 50 seats in the U.S. Senate, with Democrats holding 48 seats. The remaining two are the Georgia seats, which are headed to runoffs in early January 2021 because no candidate reached the necessary 50 percent threshold to outright win. If Republicans were to win one or both of the seats, they would retain control of the Senate. Such a result would mean a divided Congress. This would likely mean continued difficulty in passing legislation, stymieing action on the new president’s priorities. If Democrats were to win both Georgia Senate runoffs, Democrats would gain control of the Senate. Already in the majority in the House, Democrats would control both chambers, giving the Biden administration more opportunities to advance its K-12 agenda.

House Democrats Lose Seats But Retain Majority

Heading into Election Day, polling data pointed to Democrats adding to their 232 seat majority. Instead, Democrats failed to defeat a single Republican incumbent, turning what was a comfortable 232-to-197 advantage over Republicans into a thin margin. With a few races still to be called, Democrats are likely to control around 222 seats (218 votes needed to pass bills). With Democrats retaining their majority, Democratic control over key education committees will remain.

What we’re keeping our eye on: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who currently chairs the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the Department of Education, is running for chair of the full House Appropriations Committee. If she were to win the slot, it would bode well for increased K-12 education funding, as DeLauro is a strong advocate for increased federal funding for districts and schools.

Lame Duck

Aspirations are high, but expectations are low for addressing some urgent issues during the lame duck session—the period following the election before the new Congress and president are sworn in. The agenda is chock-full: Congressional leaders have indicated they want to pass all 12 FY 2021 appropriations bills and a COVID relief package before Dec. 11, the expiration date of the enacted short-term extension of government funding at least year’s spending levels. That’s a heavy lift in a short period, given some key disagreements on the appropriations bills and the parties’ divergence on the size and scope of pandemic relief. Prospects for a deal on the appropriations bills seem more likely than passing a COVID-19 relief bill, which will likely have to wait until after President-elect Biden is sworn in.

Secretary Of Education Speculation

While there is considerable uncertainty about much of the new administration’s K-12 agenda, this we can safely say: Biden will be replacing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Biden has committed to choosing a public school teacher to fill this role, but beyond that it’s not clear whom he will choose. There is some speculation Biden could select a leader from one of the teachers’ union, such as Lily Eskelsen García, who previously served as president of the National Education Association, or Randi Weingarten, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers. Others are pushing for a superintendent to get the job. Whoever is selected, they will aim to reverse many of the policies from the Trump administration.

Useful Resources

In case you missed it, NAESP has recordings of webinars from National Principals Month on pressing issues:

Parent and Family Engagement Resource and Webinar

CDC Guidance and Virtual Forum