While Monday’s impeachment hearing was proceeding on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump used a White House roundtable meeting to promote a school choice bill that aimed to open up educational choices for millions of “forgotten children” who are “locked into a school system that’s terrible.”
“Now is the time to fight for the forgotten child, and that’s what we are doing with respect to education,” said President Donald Trump, joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and several students and teachers who utilize state-level school choice programs. “For decades, countless children have been trapped in failing government schools. In my administration, these children are forgotten no longer.”
The proposed Education Freedom Scholarships is a $5 billion program that would help families to cover the cost of attending a private or public grade K-12 school of their choice or pay for supplemental educational products such as online classes and after-school tutoring, among other things. It would also provide federal tax credits for individuals and businesses that contribute part of their taxable income to support these state-based scholarship programs, primarily assisting students from low-income areas.
The proposal, first released this February, was welcomed by school-choice advocates who believe students and parents deserve more educational options. It also encountered opposition from House Democrats and teacher unions.
Cruz, the sponsor of a Senate version of the proposal, said it would be “the most significant federal civil rights victory of modern times” if it passes.
“This is all about millions of kids—millions of inner-city kids, millions of African American kids, millions of Hispanic kids, trapped right now, desperate for hope—and giving them scholarships,” said the Texas senator. “And it is only the corrupt bureaucracy that is telling them ‘no.'”
During the meeting, parents and students shared personal stories of how the freedom to choose their schools changed their lives and how they fought for that freedom. Rebecca Friedrichs, a 28-year-old public school teacher from California, said that she led and won a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association, the teacher union that forced her special needs niece back to a failing public school from a high-performing charter school.
“Unions claim to speak for teachers, but I’m here today to tell you they do not,” said Friedrichs. “The union I was forced to fund brought great damage to my own students, my profession, my own sons, and the ongoing harm to my niece.”
Walter Blanks, a student growing up in a tough neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, explained how school choice helped him avoid the “school-to-prison pipeline” way of life.
“While some of my friends were going to sleep to lullabies, I was going asleep to gunshots,” said Blanks. “My education allowed me to get out of that situation, and it opened me up to so much more than what I could even understand at the time.”