Education policy in American politics: A timeline of the progression – USA TODAY

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For decades, Democrats were viewed as the “education party,” enjoying most voters’ trust on issues surrounding public schools and money to pay for those schools.
At various points in history, however, Republicans have intervened in education issues, too, including by lamenting the state of public schools and crafting policies around charter schools and private school vouchers to introduce competition with traditional public schooling.
More: The GOP is strengthening its grip on education. Parents say Democrats are to blame.
Since the start of the pandemic, public perception has shifted on education. Long periods of remote schooling angered parents, some of whom were infuriated by rules requiring their kids to wear masks or be vaccinated to attend classes in person. Republicans claimed to be the parents' rights party, banning mask rules in some states and forcing schools to teach in person again. 
Conservatives have won seats on a number of school boards, running on campaigns targeting critical race theory. Another wave of candidates are running on the same issue this cycle, with some also targeting LGBTQ+ lessons and the contents of school libraries. Polling from over the summer of likely voters in 62 congressional battleground districts suggests Republicans now have an advantage over Democrats on education. 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, signs into law the G.I. Bill, providing education benefits to military veterans. 
A Democratic Congress passes the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding for educational institutions to increase America’s prowess following the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower signs it into law.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, signs the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law.
President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, signs into law an act establishing the U.S. Department of Education.
"A Nation at Risk" publishes during the first term of President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. The report highlighted the failure of the country’s schools and prompted a wave of education reform efforts.
Al Shanker, the one-time head of the American Federation of Teachers, touts the then-novel idea of charter schools in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 
President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, a Democrat and chair of the National Governors Association, host the historic 1989 Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was also the year the first private school vouchers were created, in Wisconsin, for low-income students in Milwaukee.
Bush unveils “America 2000: An Education Strategy,” a blueprint – “not a federal program,” as the administration emphasized – for achieving six school-related goals as articulated at the 1989 Education Summit.
The AFT’s Shanker starts to turn against charter schools after deciding that for-profit companies were likely to exploit the model for their own business interests. 
Democratic President Bill Clinton signs into law the “Goals 2000 Act,” a framework for standards-based education reform that built off the now-failed “America 2000” Plan and is seen as a precursor to No Child Left Behind. 
Newly elected Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who made education reform a campaign promise, signs into law the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher program that allowed public funds to support tuition at church-run and other private schools.
President George W. Bush, signs into law his iteration of the ESEA – No Child Left Behind, which focused on holding schools accountable for improving student achievement through high-stakes testing. 
The Bush administration begins to distance itself from No Child Left Behind, with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings offering states some flexibility from its requirements if they demonstrate improvements in student achievement.
Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship Program is declared unconstitutional
In an effort to disrupt the the Democratic Party’s pro-union education platform, a hedge-fund manager and D.C. politician co-found Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying, funding and advocacy group. 
President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, both Democrats, announce the launch of Race to the Top, a massive competitive grant program that incentivized states to adopt the Common Core state standards and policies that would support charter schools.
Outcry over high-stakes testing and the Common Core standards mounts, with parents of tens of thousands of students in states including New York and New Jersey opting their children out of such requirements. (The federal government cannot require schools to adopt uniform standards, but perceptions about that persist.)
After years of delay, Congress successfully reauthorizes the ESEA with bipartisan support, rebranding it the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Democratic President Barack Obama signs it into law. 
Republican candidates including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio denounce the Common Core.
Betsy DeVos is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the nation’s education secretary, following a gaffe-filled confirmation hearing that helped entrench her as Trump’s least popular cabinet member
The COVID-19 pandemic hits the U.S., and most schools nationwide close down. Some campuses remain closed well into the following school year, with heavily Republican counties nearly twice as likely to reopen schools as heavily Democratic ones.
The National School Boards Association sends a letter to Democratic President Joe Biden likening threats at school board meetings to “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” Attorney General Merrick Garland issues a memo just days later seeking help from local law enforcement in addressing the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against school officials. NSBA later apologizes for the letter.
Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who ran on a “parents’ rights” platform, wins the gubernatorial race in Virginia, reversing the state’s leftward shift.
This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off, including with a session titled “Domestic Terrorists Unite: Lessons from Virginia Parents,” a nod to the language contained in the NSBA’s and Garland’s fall 2021 memos.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signs into law the “Florida Parental Rights in Education Act,” referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law bans teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grades. In October, a federal judge rejects a lawsuit challenging the law. 
A sweeping universal voucher law available to all 1.1 million school-age children in Arizona for education-related costs goes into effect after opponents fail to derail the legislation. 
A separate but similarly sweeping private school voucher law that also allows parents to use the money on other educational expenses is upheld as constitutional by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. 
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