Trump calls school choice the civil rights issue of ‘all-time in this country’

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President Trump on Tuesday said school choice is the civil rights issue of “all-time in this country.”

Speaking to reporters while announcing an executive order on law enforcement reform, Trump said: “We’re fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights [issue] of all-time in this country. Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade and probably beyond. Because all children have to have access to quality education.”

"A child’s ZIP code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening," he continued. "All children deserve equal opportunity because we are all made equal by God."

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The president’s remarks come as civil rights issues are again at the forefront of discourse as the nation has been ravaged by protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd. Those protests were reignited in some areas following the death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who fell asleep at the wheel in a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta and was shot by police as he took off with an officer’s taser.

The Trump administration has long advocated for school choice, arguing it would allow residents in lower income communities the opportunity to send their children to higher-caliber schools than those offered by their district.

In Dallas last week, Trump again called on Congress to pass a school choice program, saying it is how he is “leading efforts to revitalize America’s underserved communities."

He said that school choice encourages competition, prompting underperforming institutions to "fight harder."

At his state of the union this year, the president surprised fourth-grader Janiyah Davis with an “opportunity scholarship” as he urged Congress to pass the "Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act” which would give 1 million children the freedom to attend a school of their choice.

Janiyah had been stuck on a waitlist of an estimated 50,000 students in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed school choice legislation, Trump noted.

He added: “Now, I call on Congress to give students the opportunity. Pass the Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.”

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The administration’s school choice plan, which, according to the White House, currently has more than 120 congressional co-sponsors, would bolster existing state scholarship programs and encourage states to pursue education freedom policies.

The scholarships, according to the White House, would help families pay for expenses such as tuition, dual enrollment, out-of-district transportation, tutoring and apprenticeships.

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Many Democrats and teachers unions oppose school choice plans, arguing they divert money from public institutions to private and religious ones.