President Donald Trump on Aug. 27 promised to provide school choice for every American family if he is elected for a second term.
“Biden also vowed to oppose School Choice and close down Charter Schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for Black and Hispanic children,” Trump said in his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination. “In a second term, I will expand charter schools and provide school choice to every family in America. And we will always treat our teachers with the tremendous respect they deserve.”
School choice emerged as a key issue during the first night of the Republican National Convention. Six speakers brought up school choice on the first night of the convention, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump Jr.
While the issue of school choice is complex and deals with funding and regulations at the local, state, and federal levels, the core idea is to allow parents to decide whether to spend the tax dollars allocated to their children on a public school, private school, charter school, religious school, or homeschooling.
“I realized a quality education is the closest thing we have to magic in America. That’s why I fight to this day for school choice; to make sure every child in every neighborhood has a quality education,” Scott said.
“I don’t care if it’s a public, private, charter, virtual, or home school. When a parent has a choice, their kid has a better chance. And the president has fought alongside me on that.”
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump proposed a $20 billion school choice block grant. The Trump administration’s Department of Education subsequently proposed an Education Freedom Scholarship program to provide $5 billion in annual tax credits for people and businesses who donate to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations would then provide scholarships for families who want to send their children to a school of their choice.
Public school teacher unions—one of the most powerful political forces in the United States—are vehemently opposed to school choice, arguing that any such proposal would draw funds away from the public schools that need it most.
America’s two largest teachers’ unions, National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed former vice president Joe Biden for president.
“Joe Biden is weak. He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage. These same liberals want to eliminate school choice, while they enroll their children in the finest private schools in the land,” Trump said.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The 2016 GOP platform, which the Republicans re-adopted for the 2020 convention, doesn’t include any language regarding school choice.
The K-12 education vision page on the website of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doesn’t mention school choice.
While public schools are mostly funded with money from local and state governments, federal dollars are still crucial.
During the State of the Union address earlier this year Trump highlighted the Opportunity Scholarships program created in 18 states. The program is so popular that tens of thousands of students are on waiting lists, the president said at the time.