NTF Issue Paper: PRESIDENT TRUMP CHAMPIONS EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

NTF issue paper: president10.doc. 2-19.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM ISSUE PAPER:
PRESIDENT TRUMP CHAMPIONS EDUCATIONAL CHOICE.

BACKGROUND. Many American children today sit trapped in schools that not only do not provide opportunity but that deliberately steal the opportunity for a good education. During his candidacy for President in 2016, Donald Trump pledged to champion educational choice in our K-12 schools. President-elect Trump declared on the campaign trail that school choice is “the new civil rights issue of our time.” In his presidential budgets and endeavors, he has kept his promise to make American education great again.

HIS 2018 BUDGET. The FY 2018-19 budget included A New Foundation for American Greatness Prioritizing Students & Empowering Parents. His budget promised to return decision-making to states and offer parents additional leeway in the education of their children. Five themes included expanding school choice, so that more kids have an opportunity to receive an excellent education. Continuing support for our most vulnerable students. Educational innovation. $370 million for Education Innovation & Research to expand support for evidence-based initiatives to develop and enhance effective ed interventions that help states meet minimal requirements. $250 million increase for the educational innovation and research program for competitive awards for poor students to gain scholarships to attend the private school of parental choice. $42 million to provide proved professional development activities and prepare teachers and principals certified in non-traditional ways to serve in high-need areas. Eliminating or reducing Dept. of Education programs to limit the federal role in education. This budget ended or shrunk over 30 duplicative or ineffective programs, several others more appropriately supported by state, local, or private funding. His budget saved $9 billion by streamlining or ending such programs, those that lack evidence of meeting objectives. $1.2 billion saved by ending funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs. Trump offered $1.4 billion for new public and private school choice opportunities. $168 million increase for the charter schools grant program to bolster state efforts to begin new charter schools or expand and replicate the best charter schools with $100 million to fund charter school facilities. $14.9 billion to support state and local efforts to guarantee that over 25 million students in poverty schools have access to challenging courses and teaching. $736 million to implement ed programs to help immigrant kids attain English language proficiency. The budget expanded Pell Grants to year-round school and simplified loan repayment programs to aid student debt. It streamlined subsidized student college loans and replaced 5 different plans with 1 plan that prioritizes expedited loan repayment for undergraduate borrowers. Federal work-study funds now targeted to undergrads who would benefit most. The Trump budget offered strong financial support for programs proved to work.

SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK. Every year during School Choice Week, Trump honors dedicated teachers, administrators, and elected officials who promote academic options for children by issuing a proclamation. The President believes our kids deserve access to an education that provides the tools required to succeed in our modern world. He feels that all American children deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams through hard work and personal integrity, that our education policies must support them on their journeys, recognizing the diverse career goals and academic needs of students in communities across our country. In his proclamation, Trump also encouraged parents to “evaluate the educational opportunities available for their children.” Communities must provide school options like public and private charter schools, magnet schools, parochial and private schools, and home schools to allow parents to choose the best educational choice for their kids. Family demand for public charter schools continues to grow. He also urged “State lawmakers and Federal lawmakers to expand school choice for millions of additional students.” This is an effort of special importance to minority and poor families trapped in inner cities where a better education is often the only way out of a cycle of poverty that stretches through generations. “As a young girl, Denisha — struggled in school and failed third grade twice,” Trump said in his address. “But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning … with the help of a tax credit and a scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college.” Trump commits to empowering those best suited to spend taxpayer monies, specifically local school boards and parents. During school choice week, he encouraged parents to support innovative educational alternatives and urged state legislators to offer school choice and pass laws that empower families. Trump believes that each child deserves the opportunity to flourish in an educational environment that best utilizes an individual learning style. International surveys rank the U.S. 24th in reading, 25th in science, and 40th in math, all consequences of imposing one standard educational approach. Trump wants educational alternatives that ensure all kids receive excellent education, notwithstanding where they reside, their family income, or their learning style. About 6.7 million people participated in school choice celebrations across the U.S. this January. 35 states and the District of Columbia have school choice plans approved, and the Dept. of Education is reviewing plans for the remaining states.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20 to January 26, 2019, as National School Choice Week.

HIS 2019 BUDGET. This budget provides for a $1.1 billion investment in school choice, including $500 million in fed grants to school districts willing to expand choice. More fed funding to construct new public charter schools, unlike previous administrations. Schools could use Title I funds, usually pegged to offset operating costs at schools filled with poor kids, to expand school choice programs. His budget greatly reduced the federal footprint in public schools. Discretionary spending by the Education Department cut by 5.3%, about $3.6 billion of a $63 billion total. Two programs saw the steepest cuts: Title II, used partly to recruit and retain teachers and support principals, and the 21st Century Learning Centers block grants, which pay for enrichment programs, particularly in high-poverty communities. $1 billion in Opportunity Grants states can use for a range of options, including voucher programs that allow public dollars to follow students to private and parochial schools. States and cities will received extra federal funds, if they support private school voucher programs or open enrollment policies whereby dollars follow a pupil to school of choice. Ending student loan forgiveness for those who opt for careers in public service but expanding the ways students use federal Pell Grant funds to pay for post-secondary education.

ENDEAVORS. Trump seeks a national tax credit to encourage charity contributions to nonprofit K-12 scholarship funds. For each dollar donated, $1 reduced in tax. This plan would provide charity money for parents to make school choices and attain a quality education for millions of American kids. Over 240 organizations nationally support a K-12 scholarship tax credit. Also encouraged are charity donations to apprenticeship and workforce prep programs. Such addition would help close the skills gap that leaves millions unemployed or underemployed. Trump endorses ensuring that families of U.S. military personnel receive the widest choice of schooling for their kids. Now, military families unfortunately must send their kids to inferior district schools near military bases, without options. Unacceptable to Trump is this situation for those who make sacrifices for their country. The President wants ed savings accounts expanded to home schools. On April 26, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order that will “prohibit federal interference with state and local control over education.” By limiting the federal government through executive orders and cutting the Department of Education budget by more than 10%, Trump aims to limit the education power of the federal government. He also suggested abolishing this unconstitutional department entirely. Trump vows to dismantle the Obama-backed national confusing education standards known as Common Core. Both efforts would appear wonderful developments for constitutionalists, children, and advocates of quality education.

POPULARITY. A poll in Education Next shows that 54% of Americans now support school choice for all families, a big jump in popularity since 2018, up from 45%. 64% of Republicans support choice, but even Dems supported choice by 47% in 2018, 7% higher than in 2017. School choice options are more convincing, because parents and children demand the same flexibility, personalization, and attention from education that we have in other facets of our lives.

THE CHALLENGE. Congress refused the 2017 and 2018 Trump budget plans to dedicate $1.4 million to expand vouchers. Several Trump school choice initiatives failed to pass through congressional appropriations, including a proposal to fund demonstration programs in states and school districts. Teacher unions, bureaucrats, and the Socialist Democrats build obstacles, because they all benefit from educational monopolies. Expecting any segment of Socialist Democrats to cross the aisle to work with Trump is a fantasy. Public school teachers unions, leftwing progressives, and government-education monopolists dislike the idea of losing their share of the hundreds of billions in tax funding flowing to government schools, also the virtual monopoly polluting the minds of young Americans. However, expanding school choice only recognizes that education should serve the best interests of children, not bureaucracies or unions.

VOUCHERS. The President has redirected $20 billion in federal education dollars to states as block grants. States can then pass the money on as vouchers, many to students who live in poverty. Trump wants parents to use these vouchers at the school of their choice, even if that school is private and/or religiously affiliated. If the states collectively contribute another $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice to add to the $20 billion in federal dollars, that could provide $12,000 in school choice money to every K-12 student who today lives in poverty. Many African-American and Latino families frustrated with their failing neighborhood schools like the idea. 14 states plus D.C. have traditional voucher programs. These vouchers typically allow individuals and companies to donate a share of the state taxes owed to privately- administered scholarship programs. Because the money does not come directly from the government, such programs usually have withstood legal challenges on the separation of church and state, unlike other voucher programs. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that vouchers are constitutional, but a majority of states still have Blaine Amendments which prohibit them from using state money to fund religious schools. 37 states prohibit government support for faith-based schools, with state constitutional amendments tracing their roots to the 19th Century, when James G. Blaine, a Republican speaker of the House, fought at the federal level to prevent government funding of Catholic schools. However, a recent Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, ruled that government money could pay to construct a playground at a church school. Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos underscored that the federal government would in no way mandate use of the scholarship tax credit for vouchers. States would make the decision about participating. “We shouldn’t view this, however, as a chance to mandate a one-size-fits-all school choice proposal,” DeVos said. “We all fundamentally know one size doesn’t fit all.” She continued, “We won’t accomplish our goals by creating a new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money. We should have zero interest in substituting our own big government approach for the current big government approach.” “If a state doesn’t want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part,” she said. “They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it. If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids. They’ll be the ones who will have to explain to their constituent parents why they are denying their fundamental right to choose what type of education is best for their child. ”

SEX EDUCATION. Trump wants $75 million for the welfare department to fund abstinence-only and personal responsibility sex education programs. That follows the appointment of Valerie Huber, a longtime abstinence education advocate, to a post in HHS. In an interview with PBS, Huber said “as public health experts and policymakers, we must normalize sexual delay more than we normalize teen sex, even with contraception.”

PRIME EXAMPLE. When Shea Shaw’s son was in a Kentucky 2nd Grade, she faced a choice. She could keep him in public school, where she suspected an undiagnosed learning disability was making it difficult for him to keep pace. Or, she and her husband could find the money to send him to a private school, where they thought smaller class sizes might give him a better opportunity. They chose the latter. “His entire class size for third grade was eight children,” said Shaw, who enrolled her son Marcus at the De Paul School in the Highlands. The Shaws operate a small business, and he is earning his bachelor’s degree, so paying for private school tuition is difficult. Together, they pay for part of the almost $17,000 tuition out of pocket but rely heavily on financial aid and scholarships to fund the difference. Marcus is now in the 5th Grade at De Paul. The 10-year-old is thriving, Shaw said, thanks to teachers who understand his learning differences, including his now-diagnosed dyslexia. Under Trump federal tax reform passed in 2018, more parents in Kentucky and across the country can do the same, because the legislation included a provision that gives families incentives to choose private schools. The bill, signed into law by the president, expands the function of 529 savings accounts. Until now, families only could use these 529 plans to save for college tax free. Now, those plans can pay for up to $10,000 in annual K-12 expenses for public schools but including private and religious school tuition and expenses, state disapproval notwithstanding.

JUDICIAL ACTIVITY. President Trump has appointed judges to the federal courts who support school choice. The U.S. Supreme Court could eliminate mandatory union dues collection by teachers unions. This loss would devastate their finances, much diminishing their political ability to elect supporters and fight school choice.
TAKE ACTION NOW. Contact your representative and senators on Capitol Hill to support and co-sponsor legislation to pass these Trump initiatives. Nebraska children and youth and their parents deserve additional opportunities in education to select the best educational options available. Email netaxpayers@gmail.com for congressional contact information and to join the NE Taxpayers for Freedom Congress Watch Project.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 2-19 C.

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