Donald Trump’s ‘School Choice’ Plan Doesn’t Make The Grade

Yesterday, Donald Trump unveiled his education plan. It lacks any vision for strengthening our public schools. Instead, it would divert $20 billion in federal funding to “school choice,” including private school vouchers.

Trump chose the state of Ohio to reveal his voucher plan, even though a 2016 study of that state’s voucher program found that voucher students performed worse than their public school peers on math and reading tests.

Even more inexplicable, Trump unveiled his plan at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy charter school, which earned failing grades from the Ohio Department of Education for its students' performance and progress on state math and reading tests.

In a speech filled with buzzwords used by voucher backers, Trump explained that he would redirect existing federal funding to create a $20 billion block grant for states to use to send students living in poverty to private and charter schools. This will surely come at the expense of existing federal programs that often help neighborhood schools. And, as a way to force states to adopt voucher programs, “distribution [of the funds] will favor states with voucher and charter laws.”

According to Trump: “The parents will be so happy. Number one, we’ll have safe streets. And number two, they’ll walk their child to a school they wanna be at. How about that? How is that?”

Well, for starters it’s not grounded in reality. How would school vouchers miraculously make all streets safe? (They won’t.) And, how can he promise that every family will suddenly have the perfect charter school or private school within walking distance of their home? (He can’t. In fact, private voucher schools do not improve academic achievement and can be in a rundown factory or unkempt facility where the bathroom is only for emergencies!) 

Is this a future school under Trump’s voucher plan?  

Here just a few of the many more reasons why his education plan falls short:

* His plan would divert $20 billion dollars from existing federal programs for this new “choice” block grant to states, which will fund private and charter schools. That means there will be $20 billion taken away from existing programs that often serve our neighborhood public schools.

* His plan claims that parents of kids living in poverty will suddenly be able to go to the school of their “choice.” But it is the private schools that get to pick and choose the students they want to admit – and who knows if they’ll even accept vouchers in the first place? Plus, the $12,000 vouchers he envisions are unlikely to cover the full cost of attending most private schools anyway, putting such schools out of reach of the parents he claims he will be helping.

* Although Trump claimed that vouchers promote civil rights, they actually undermine them. Private schools don’t provide the same fundamental civil rights protections – including those found in our laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender and gender identity, national origin, and disability – that our public schools do.

* Trump’s speech claims that his program will increase competition that will improve all our schools. But, our schools aren’t Atlantic City casinos that can simply declare bankruptcy if they fail. Students will be harmed if they end up at unregulated, low-quality schools.

Here’s the grade I’d give Trump’s plan: F.