Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s education speech on Thursday has conservatives cheering and moderate voters paying close attention — especially because his promises have unpopular teacher’s unions across the country furious.
The Republican presidential nominee announced plans to spend $20 billion during his first year in office to help states expand school choice programs, which would take power away from public school unions.
Trump wasn’t shy about his intentions, debuting his ideas at an inner-city charter school in Cleveland as part of his new outreach to minority voters.
“There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said at the school, blaming the Democratic Party for having “trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success.”
“It’s time to break up that monopoly,” he said.
The announcement caused an immediate backlash from Big Labor, which supports Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the speech “repeats the same flawed ideology anti-public education zealots have been shilling for years.”
The president of the National Education Association, Lily Garcia, said in a press release that, “His silver bullet approach does nothing to help the most vulnerable students and ignores glaring opportunity gaps while taking away money from public schools to fill private-sector coffers.”
Trump argued his approach would create “a massive education market,” one that produces better outcomes than the nation’s existing public education system. Beyond his $20 billion in federal money, he wants states to divert another $110 billion of their own education budgets to support school choice efforts, providing $12,000 to every elementary school student living in poverty to attend the school of their choice.
The billionaire businessman has embraced the concept popular among conservatives, which calls for students and their parents to be able to select the school they wish to attend – public, private, charter or magnet. To support that effort, Trump proposed reallocating an unspecified $20 billion in his first budget as president into block grants to states, and directing them to use the money to help millions of elementary school students living in poverty attend the school of their choice. That money “should follow the students,” a concept known in education policy as portability.
Trump also took aim at “Common Core.” The academic standards adopted in more than 40 states are a frequent target of Trump’s ire. “We spend more by far, and we’re doing very poorly. So, obviously, Common Core does not work,” he said this past week. Trump has pledged to do away with the standards if elected, which could prove a challenge: they were created and adopted by states, not the federal government. Trump has also pledged that ripping up the state-developed standards and bringing education “to the local level” would immediately boost student performance.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.