What authority/powers does the Secretary of Education have over K-12 education?

This may wind up in GD or wherever, but I am looking for a factual answer: in what ways does the office of Secretary of Education empower the occupant of that office to affect K-12 education?

My WAG would be: not much, despite all the talk of the newly-confirmed DeVos tearing down the public school system. K-12 education has always been run by the localities, with occasional state-level intervention, and largely funded at those levels as well.

Congress can pass stuff like No Child Left Behind, so presumably some laws that Congress has already passed give DeVos some limited power to affect what happens in K-12. And of course the Secretary of Education can always act as a cheerleader for what she regards as reforms. But for her to make a BIG difference, my WAG is that Congress would have to pass more laws.

So is my WAG basically on target, or does the Secretary of Education have powers that have escaped my notice?

I think it has a lot to do with federal funding, and what hoops the feds want states to jump through to get that funding. Kinda like the drinking age used to vary by state, but the feds said “want to see any more of that sweet highway money? Raise the drinking age to 21”. Isn’t that how “common core” became, well, common?

So if DeVos says “no more school funding unless your state spends at least 30% of its education budget on charter schools” then, if Trump agrees, that’s what states will have to do to keep getting school funds from the federal government.

There are still laws and regulations specifying how federal funding is spent. The drinking age, for example, was established by an act of congress which provided funding only to states with a 21 year minimum drinking age.

I think the GQ answer is merely “the Secretary can direct policy and funding within the constraints of existing law,” though if there are any experts on education policy that can give more details I’d love to hear from them.

The precise extent of executive power, in any branch of government, is going to a matter for the courts to decide…

Nope. There is no federal involvement in Common Core. It’s just a bunch of states who all agreed that it was a good idea. Those few states who chose not to be part of Common Core are not subject to any censure, penalties, withdrawal of funding, or other federal action.

Title IX (regarding gender equity in athletics), for example, may be a law, but it is entirely enforced through regulations drawn up by the Department of Education. The head of a Cabinet department has pretty broad powers to change that department’s regulations.

Title I reading programs (elementary schools) are funded through a complicated formula that allocates more to schools with students in low-income homes. The Department could change the formula to a flat amount per student, or raise the number of low-performing students (currently 40% of the school’s enrollment) necessary to qualify for funding.

I think a big issue is going to be how religious schools might be treated (or required to be treated).

No, the big issue is whether funding will continue to public schools, or whether we get a voucher/charter/magnet school system rammed down our throats.

As Ms DeVos is a billionaire, her respect for (and understanding of) public schools is zero. Only the selective education of charter schools and the like will do, you understand.