Donald Trump promises $20 billion towards school choice movement

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled his education plan at a charter school at Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday. The audience were mostly African-American students and educators.

This was Trump’s second visit to Cleveland this week and part of his latest efforts to reach out to the African American populace of Ohio. The school where he spoke caters to about 325 predominantly poor African American children.

Trump proceeded to renew his pitch for the school choice movement. He laid out a $20 billion initiative to bust up a federal “education monopoly,” accusing Democrats of having “trapped” black and Hispanic children in “failing government schools.”

Trump said that his budget would redirect $20 billion for school voucher programs. In Ohio, students from low performing schools can use these vouchers to help fund tuition at other charter or private institutions.

He said he hoped that the state-run block grant would help poor children in low-performing public schools to enroll at charter and private schools.

“There is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said. He said he was “proposing a plan to provide school choice to every disadvantaged student in America.”

Trump’s plan to add “an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice” would be accomplished by “reprioritizing existing federal dollars,” he and his campaign said. But they did not say specifically where in the budget the money would come from.

Trump said states would have the option to use the money as they wish, but he would push them to allow students to use the money to attend the schools of their choice.

Other Republicans too had raised the idea of using federal dollars to allow poor children to go to schools of their choice. This was during the overhaul of the nation’s main federal education law last year. However, the measure called Every Student Succeeds did not make it into the law.

Trump also said he would support merit pay for teachers and use the bully pulpit afforded by the presidency to advocate for candidates who run on making “school choice” more widespread.

Critics questioned Trump’s choice of the charter school which has received failing grades from the Ohio Department of Education for its students’ performance and progress on state math and reading tests.

Asked about the decision to campaign here, Trump spokesman Jason Miller wrote in an email: “Mr. Trump believes that all children deserve the opportunity to receive a first-class education, and his school choice reform proposals will help do just that. Introducing school choice and challenging failed government monopolies is central to helping improve results and prepare our children for the rest of their lives.”

“Our campaign represents the long-awaited chance to break with the bitter failures of the past and to embrace a new and strong American future,” Trump said.

Speaking to voters in Cleveland shortly after he met with teachers, students and their parents at the school, Trump said the Democratic Party has “trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success.”

“It’s time to break up that monopoly,” Trump said as he railed against increasing government involvement in education. “I want every single inner city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom, the civil right to attend the school of their choice.”

“This includes private schools, traditional public schools, magnet schools and charter schools,” he noted. “It’s simply a matter of putting students first, not the education bureaucracy.”

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