Trump criticizes 'failing government schools' as he pushes school choice

Trump plugged a tax break program aimed at giving American students equal educational opportunities

President Trump used his State of the Union speech Tuesday to advocate for an education proposal his administration has been pushing amid staunch opposition from Democrats.

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Trump framed the plan as a way to level the playing field for American students from different parts of the country.

“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Trump said. “Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

The administration has proposed giving $5 billion worth of annual tax credits to encourage individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit scholarship funds. Those funds would be used for education opportunities like private and religious schools, apprenticeships, technical training and certification.

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Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill – with the support of Education Secretary Betsey DeVos – known as the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act – which would give freedom to states to decide how to set up a program that fits their residents’ needs. States would be able to decide, for example, which students would be eligible for scholarships. State participation would be optional.

The goal of the program would be to give every student access to similar educational opportunities, despite where they live or their family’s income. So far, 18 states have adopted voucher programs like the one proposed.

The approach – which once enjoyed support from Democrats – no longer does. Washington Sen. Patty Murray has released multiple statements criticizing the proposal – and DeVos – who she says is pushing it through without Republican support.

Critics allege the proposal would drive funding away from public schools. The program has also run into push back in rural areas where private schools are not as common.

Democratic candidates have been vying for support among unions – including the teachers’ unions – which have often put their policies in opposition with the Trump administration’s school choice proposal.

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However, the policy was once welcome among the left.

As noted in a New York Times article, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has advocated for vouchers and school choice in the past. Former Vice President Joe Biden also voiced support for the policy during his tenure as a senator.

The Trump administration isn’t stopping its push. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to host another school choice event on Wednesday. Pence and DeVos recently held a rally in Wisconsin to address the topic.

In addition to school choice, President Trump asked lawmakers to support offering vocational and technical education in every single high school across the country.

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