CLEVELAND (CN) — Visiting an Ohio charter school with a predominantly black student body, Donald Trump vowed Thursday to give families living in poverty more choice when it comes to education.
Speaking to press at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, Trump accused the Democratic party of trapping millions of black and Hispanic children in failing public schools that deny them the opportunity to “join the ladder of American success.”
He then went on to describe the public school system as a “government-run education monopoly” that has “utterly failed” too many students and needs to be broken up.
“I want every single inner-city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom — the civil right — to attend the school of their choice,” Trump said. “This includes private schools, traditional public schools, magnet schools and charter schools, which must be included in any definition of school choice.”
The speech echoed Trump’s past remarks U.S. students perform near the bottom of the pack, though we spend more per student than most other major countries in the world.
Trump then outlined his plan to reallocate $20 billion in existing federal dollars to establish a block grant for the 11 million school age kids living in poverty in the United States.
Distribution of the proposed grant, Trump said, would favor states that have private school choice and charter laws, thereby encouraging broad participation among the states.
Trump also suggested that the states collectively contribute another $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice, stating that, if they do so, every K-12 student who lives in poverty could be provided with $12,000 per year to attend the school of their choice.
Trump promised to support merit pay for teachers and use the “pulpit of the presidency” to encourage the American people to elect officials who support school choice at the city, state and federal level.
“The future is filled with limitless possibilities for our nation and exciting opportunities for our children,” said Trump. “All we have to do is cut our ties with the failed politics of the past.”
The Clinton campaign offered harsh criticism of Trump’s education proposals later Thursday.
“It’s no surprise that Donald Trump — whose only experience when it comes to education is his fraudulent ‘Trump University’ — offered education policies that would prove disastrous for our public schools, our educators, and most importantly, our kids,” said Maya Harris, senior policy adviser for Hillary for America. “Let’s be clear: Trump’s proposal to apparently gut nearly 30 percent of the federal education budget and turn it into private school vouchers would decimate public schools across America and deprive our most vulnerable students of the education the deserve.”
Clinton’s camp posits that the $20 billion in federal funds Trump plans to reallocate would likely come from Title I funding that is targeted to schools and districts with the highest concentrations of low-income students.
If true, the Clinton team argues, then Trump’s proposal will put crucial funding at risk for nearly 21 million impoverished children who attend America’s 56,000 Title I public schools.
Clinton campaign’s also pointed to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which says participation in a prominent school-voucher plan in the state of Louisiana substantially reduced academic achievement and had a significant negative effect on reading, science and social studies outcomes.
“Hillary Clinton believes that the public school system is one of the pillars of our democracy,” Harris in a statement. “As president she will fight to strengthen our public schools to ensure every student receives world-class education, regardless of their ZIP code.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, on the other hand, praised Donald Trump’s proposals as “bold set of policies that will increase accountability and lead to better results for our nation’s children.”
Trump’s education proposals, as well as his choice of venue to announce them, are clearly an attempt at outreach toward the black and Hispanic voters whose support has eluded him in national polls up to this point.
While it remains to be seen if Trump’s support of charter schools and visits to black churches will actually help him win over minority voters, they are a marked improvement over to his previous effort of asking, “What the hell do you have to lose?”
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