The new year is upon us. The past couple of years have brought big changes for schools. From COVID-19 and remote learning to partisan debates and book bans, there have been a ton of consequential story lines for education recently. Will 2023 bring more of the same?
Student loan forgiveness
In an attempt to keep one of his more popular campaign promises, President Biden launched a student loan forgiveness program. Under the plan, federal student loan borrowers can have up to $10,000 of their loan discharged. Pell grant recipients would be eligible for up to $20,000 worth of forgiveness.
Almost immediately the plan was challenged in court by conservatives in red states. The program has been blocked by federal courts setting up a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court level where presumably conservatives will have an advantage. Arguments are set to begin in February and by mid-summer we should have a decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already begun to hear arguments for and against affirmative action. The question is to what extent can colleges use race when determining whether a student is admitted or not. Critics say that policies that use race as a factor are typically unfair to white and Asian students, but universities contend they cannot achieve the diversity they want without being intentional. In the past, the Supreme Court has been more sympathetic to the latter argument but as we have seen already in the past few months this is a court that is willing to break precedent, and they will have a solid conservative majority to do just that if that is their desire.
Universal free lunch
During the height of the pandemic, free lunch was extended to many students who would not have otherwise gotten it. Many school districts and families welcomed that change. Coronavirus funding is running dry which means places that want to continue universal free lunch are going to have to pass their own legislation to do so. Several states are doing just that.
Partisan policies at the local level
Republicans did not ride a red wave of angry parents to political dominance like many people anticipated in the last mid-terms. Still, there are many places where candidates with a desire to make changes to schools did win, and they have hit the ground running. Throughout the upcoming year you can expect to see more book bans, more arguments about LGBTQIA+ inclusion efforts, more debates about curriculum and a general pushback against what conservatives describe as “woke” practices in education.
Unfortunately, this will always be a story line because we are certainly not going to go a year without a major school shooting. It is almost routine now but when the next school shooting happens you can expect a nationwide debate over gun control and school safety. If it happens later in the year, it may even turn into a campaign issue. But, all we know for sure is that we will have them.