Trump SOTU Speech: ‘No Parent Should Be Forced to Send Their Child to a Failing Government School’

February 6, 2020 Updated: February 6, 2020
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President Donald Trump urged Congress during his State of the Union address Tuesday night to pass a pro-school choice plan that has been pending since it was introduced in the House of Representatives almost a year ago.

“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,” said Trump. “Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

The president then introduced two of his 11 guests, Stephanie Davis, a single mother from Philadelphia, and her daughter Janiyah Davis, a fourth-grade student who has sought a way out of her low-performing public school through Pennsylvania’s school-choice program, which provides tax credits to individuals and businesses in exchange for donating to scholarships for students to attend private schools.

President Trump Gives State Of The Union Address
Stephanie Davis and her daughter Janiyah, attend the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Feb. 4, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“But last year, that future was put further out of reach when Pennsylvania’s governor vetoed legislation to expand school choice to 50,000 children,” Trump said, referring to a 2019 Pennsylvania bill that would have expanded the state’s school choice program. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed that bill.

“Janiyah, I have some good news for you. Because I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over,” Trump said, announcing that a scholarship had “become available” for the girl. It was not immediately apparent to which scholarship fund he was referring.

“Now, I call on the Congress to give 1 million American children the same opportunity Janiyah has just received,” said the president. “Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.”

First championed by Education Secretary Besty DeVos in February 2019, the Education Freedom Scholarship calls for up to $5 billion in federal tax credits that would provide a dollar-for-dollar match for contributors of school-choice programs in participating states. Under the Trump administration plan, the federal tax credit would be capped at 10 percent of a taxpayer’s gross income and 5 percent of a business’ taxable income.

“Tonight, the President delivered a strong message in support of America’s students and their futures,” DeVos said in a statement after the president’s remark. “Every student, parent, and teacher should be excited by this bold agenda to free them from a government system that limits their success.”

“I’m grateful to the President for his strong support of this proposal from day one and look forward to Congress acting quickly on this bipartisan issue and putting students’ needs above everything else,” she said.