Donald Trump May Face Hardship in Expansion of School Choice Legislature

The school voucher programs in Washington DC and Indiana (the home state of Vice President-elect Mike Pence) could serve as the foundation for the Trump administration’s plan to distribute public money to more effectively enable disadvantaged students to attend the public—or even private—school of their choosing.

Accordingly, President-elect Donald Trump has made it very clear that school choice will be a top education priority.

Indeed, Trump’s 100-day action plan has initially called for Congress to pass new legislation that would aim to redirect education dollars to provide more school choice for all parents of school-age children. While the details of this program still remain unclear it appears, at least for now, that the plan focuses on the federal voucher program that has been successful in several places.

“This is a part of President-elect Trump’s initiative that minority communities will embrace,” explains Representative Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who has sponsored such school voucher bills in the past. He continues, “This will be a ticket to a better learning environment.”

At a Cleveland charter school, for example, Trump vowed, last month, to funnel approximately $20 billion in existing federal dollars towards scholarships for students in need. This is an idea that would require Congressional approval, of course; but last year Congress did pass a bipartisan overhaul of the existing No Child Left Behind bill. Furthermore, they are not very likely to alter the bill any time soon.

Vic Klatt is a principal at Penn Hill Group. He has worked on federal education policy for at least 20 years; and he says that the school choice option has a much better chance now than it will not be easy.

At an Education Writers Association panel discussion, Klatt comments, “There will be tons of support for charters. Full-scale private choice will be a battle. It’s going to depend on how much emphasis this president and his people put on private school choice as an issue.”

In addition, Trump continues to promise to “put an end to Common Core,” but these standards have been adopted by individual states; and the new education law is very explicit about prohibiting federal government intervention over which laws and standards states should adopt.

At the end of the day, though, Trump’s campaign plan for school choice still remains without many details: he has not exactly said where the $20 billion in federal funding will come from or how they plan to dole it out.