Project 2025: The Far Right’s Plan to Dismantle Public Schools (and Our Democracy)

Project 2025: The Far Right’s Plan to Dismantle Public Schools (and Our Democracy)

As our nation approaches the November election, a playbook issued by extremists guiding the Republican party and Donald Trump has come to light. The impacts of this playbook on K-12 education in Arizona and across the US cannot be understated — beginning with privatizing education and eliminating protections related to LGBTQ+ youth or diversity. Read on to get a better understanding of what is at stake for our treasured system of free and accessible public education.

Project 2025 The Far Right’s Plan to Dismantle Public Schools (and Our Democracy)By now, you’ve likely heard of “Project 2025,” short for the Project 2025 Presidential Transition Project, a well-funded manifesto from the far-right extremist Heritage Foundation and more than 100 other organizations (including Moms for Liberty, ALEC, and Turning Point USA). The goal, according to Democracy Forward, is to “take swift, far-right action that would cut wages for working people, dismantle social safety net programs, reverse decades of progress for civil rights, redefine the way our society operates, and undermine our economy.”

Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership” is a 900+ page policy playbook authored by extremists (including former Trump officials) that provides a dangerous vision for our nation — and a detailed road map to implement it immediately upon the inauguration of a new, authoritarian president. Within these 900 pages are sweeping changes to K-12 schools that will fundamentally undermine and dismantle public schools as the centerpiece of American democracy. 

Project 2025’s Impacts on K-12 Education

Project 2025 contains sweeping reforms for K-12 education across the US, stripping protections for LGBTQ+ students, attacking civil rights, and implementing universal private and religious school vouchers across the US. 

This playbook further details plans to completely remake the executive branch and its powers relating to K-12 education:

  • Eliminate Title I funding for low-income students: Title I, the $18 billion federal fund that supports low-income students, would disappear in a decade. Instead, the Project says states “should assume decision-making control over how to provide a quality education to children from low-income families” and would send funding in unregulated “block grants” (aka, vouchers) to be used for public or private purposes — furthering their ideal of elite private education for a select privileged few and under-resourced schools for the rest. 
  • Eliminate the U.S. Department of Education: Donald Trump has said he wants to shut down the USDOE, saying at rallies that it should be disbanded to “move everything back to the states where it belongs.” Project 2025 lays out how dismantling the USDOE would work, leaving behind a husk focused solely as a “statistics-gathering agency that disseminates information to the states” — and evaporating the federal government’s ability to prevent discrimination by overseeing schools nationwide.
  • Scale back civil rights protections. The Project would ax the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights within the USDOE. The federal government’s ability to enforce civil rights laws in schools would be scaled back “based on a proper understanding of those laws, rejecting gender ideology and critical race theory.” Instead, Project 2025 would perpetuate a framework of people unwilling to acknowledge our country’s racist history and its impacts today, hanging vulnerable children out to dry. 
  • Privatize public education: Federal education funds would be converted to vouchers for parents to use on private schools and other education expenses — regardless of whether these schools discriminate or segregate. Project 2025 enacts vouchers for all “federal” children, meaning military children and members of sovereign tribes, and seeks to convert federal IDEA funding for students with special needs to unregulated voucher programs. It also seeks to universalize the federal DC voucher program, which would make all students eligible, and allow private schools “to control their admissions” (or reject any students they don’t want). 
  • End federal protections for LGBTQ+ students: Project 2025 would direct a future Secretary of Education to rescind the Biden administration’s expanded Title IX protections for LGBTQ+ students. It proposes ridding education programs of any “gender ideology and critical race theory,” such as a “non-binary” category in data collection or the ability of trans youth to participate in sports aligned with their gender. It also calls for parental approval for the use of names or pronouns other than those on birth certificates. And it wants to gut current protections against discrimination based on students’ sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Given the rhetoric Trump and his enablers have unleashed about public schools, none of this comes as a surprise. At a June 2024 “Faith & Freedom Conference” in Washington, DC, Trump vowed to sign an executive order on the first day of his 2025 administration that would cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content onto the lives of our children.” This broad brush flings open the door to vast inequities and discrimination, rolling back hard-fought decades of progress on the civil and social protections that actually make America great. 

It is likely that Project 2025 only represents the beginning of this concerted attack on American values. On the campaign trail, Trump has also said that parents should elect school principals, called for merit pay for teachers and the abolition of teacher tenure, promised to cut federal funding to schools (allegedly) pushing progressive social ideas, and pledged to establish universal school choice.

The Heritage Foundation’s Dangerous Efforts to Destroy Public Education

Project 2025 would develop massive expansions of voucher programs that would siphon dollars to unregulated private schools across the entire country. Trump has said that he supports universal “school choice,” or the ability of any student to use taxpayer funds to attend whatever school they want. The Project cites Arizona’s expansion of vouchers to all students as a model, despite the fact that our state’s program has been the subject of much controversy — including driving a massive budget debt crisis, leading to public school closures, and funneling taxpayer dollars to extras like ski trips, $1800 collectible Lego sets, kayaks, and Sea World admissions. 

Project 2025’s education chapter was written by Lindsey Burke, chief of the Koch- and DeVos-funded Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. Burke unloads the heart of Heritage’s plan for education in the second paragraph: “Elementary and secondary education policy should follow the path outlined by Milton Friedman in 1955, wherein education is publicly funded but education decisions are made by families.” Burke cites Friedman’s 1955 essay “The Role of Government in Education” — a response to Brown v. Board of Education desegregation orders — which laid out Friedman’s racist ideas for vouchers for all and in which he argued that “Privately conducted schools… can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.” (Read our blog about the racist roots of vouchers for more information about this history.)

Under the Heritage Foundation’s plan, federal dollars for public education would be fully privatized. Project 2025 calls for federal spending on education to be turned to “block grants” (aka, vouchers) and given to states without “strings” (aka, regulations). Its demand for  more “education freedom” means vouchers and a privatized system, including tax credit scholarships, a type of voucher that allows the wealthy to fund private schools in lieu of paying taxes.

The Revolution “Will Remain Bloodless If the Left Allows It to Be”

Lest anyone believe Project 2025 is a peaceful mandate or a gradual transition, Kevin Roberts, the President of the Heritage Foundation, recently discussed Project 2025 on the news, saying “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” 

Heritage has spent millions to block voting rights in battleground states, to push election denialism, and to force in school vouchers under the disingenuous guise of “school choice.” They have worked to push critical race theory bans and praised Florida’s dismantling of public education. They even once tried to argue that school vouchers would increase the birth rate

Allowing elitist dark-money special interests like the Heritage Foundation to dictate the future of our public schools — and our democracy — is a horrifyingly dangerous plan that should not be followed by any future president. 

The Path Forward

“This playbook actually goes into detail that we’ve never seen before,” said Weadé James, senior director for K-12 policy at the Center for American Progress. It would have profound implications on civil rights, school funding and students’ progress – not to mention on the fate of public schools, she said.

Arizona is the most important battleground state in the nation. Arizona voters have an opportunity to tip the scales of justice this November. It is our fervent hope you will all do your research and share it with friends and family. Please vote, up and down the ballot, for people who will protect public schools. If we all continue to stay engaged and take action where and how we can, together we will protect our democracy.

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