Reading the Evidence Tea Leaves: Trump Inaugural Address Cites Welfare, Education

What role will evidence play in the new administration?  While that is not yet clear, in his inaugural address President Trump called out two issues where evidence-based policy has been playing an increasingly important role: education and welfare.

While both issues received only short references, their inclusion in a speech that was relatively short overall suggests how important they may be to the new administration.

On poverty, the president cited “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” as a pressing problem and that “we will get our people off of welfare and back to work.” On education, he criticized “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

The poverty reference reinforces the expectation that Congress will revisit welfare reform later this year. House Republicans have already laid out an anti-poverty plan that places evidence at the center of its reform efforts.

On education, the administration’s plans with respect to evidence are less clear. The president has previously criticized Common Core and endorsed school choice.

But the president’s inaugural address suggests that ineffectiveness is a central concern, which may elevate the importance of evidence. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, includes several evidence-based provisions.

Update: Trump was even more explicit in his support for welfare reform in a speech to congressional Republicans on January 26. According to Roll Call:

Trump also touted his interest in overhauling welfare, another key plank of Ryan’s “A Better Way” agenda. “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work,” the president said.


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