Trump’s Address Highlights School Choice Success Story to Sway Dissenters
Last week, President Trump addressed a joint Congress and American public.
The topic on most minds would be Trump addressing his cracking down on illegal immigration, the focal point of his campaign, but no. Instead of overlooking education once again, Trump jumped into the American education system, stating that “Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” echoing the speeches of previous presidents like Bush and Obama.
Trump encouraged lawmakers of both parties to help “disadvantaged youth, including millions of African American and Latino children” by funding school choice.
Trump is the first president to call for school choice, a wide range of programs offering students and their families funds to best provide for their educational needs, whether that’s to a private, public or charter school etc.
During his speech, Trump pulled at the heartstrings of the American people by sharing the story of a young African-American woman named Denisha Merriweather.
Merriweather, a Florida native, failed the third grade twice, and then, after being pulled out of public school, was placed in a private center for learning with help from a tax credit scholarship program. At the private institution, she began to flourish academically, and now she is the first in her family to graduate from college and will be earning a master’s degree in social work later this year.
Trump hopes this story of overcoming educational hardships will encourage both parties to support and pass his $20 billion school choice proposal with federal funding to help low-income students to attend private schools of their choice.
Before the story of Merriweather was shared, the school voucher system had a bad track record with being costly, not having much public support and being generally ineffective. But with Merriweather as the poster child of the school voucher system’s success, both parties could begin to consider the plan in a more positive light. Trump already has support from his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who has built her entire career around promoting the school voucher system, and has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates who support that issue.
Trump’s education-focused speech goes hand in hand with the two laws he signed earlier that day in regard to supporting and encouraging women to join the STEM field.
The first bill, the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explores Act (INSPIRE) is focused on NASA encouraging women to enter careers in engineering, mathematics and science. The second bill, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, authorizes the National Science Foundation to recruit and support women inventors.
President Trump stated that the bill will motivate “researchers and scientists in bringing their discoveries to the business world, championing science and entrepreneurship and creating new ways to improve people’s lives.”
In general, these bills seem to be supporting women in the workforce and women entering the STEM field. Only time will tell with this administration if these bills will push women to graduate with STEM degrees.
Before the signing of these bills, Trump’s education reform has been met with great controversy with the appointment of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education, yet with the passing of these bill strides are being made in providing access to equal education for all American students, no matter their race or gender.
Natalie Yera is in her first year of the M.A. program in publishing and writing at Emerson College. She recently returned from spending five months studying in London and a month backpacking through parts of Eastern and Western Europe. She is originally from Buffalo, New York. Follow her at @NatalieYera.