White House

Nation’s Largest Charter-School Group Slams Trump Admin for ‘Chilling’ School Choice in 2021 Budget

President Trump makes remarks during the White House Business Session with the nation’s governors in Washington, DC, February 10, 2020. (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

The nation’s leading public charter organization slammed President Trump’s proposed 2021 budget for “chilling” school choice by collapsing the Federal Charter Schools Program into a block grant to be administered at the state and local level for the sake of cutting costs.

“President Trump has consistently said that school choice is a priority for his administration, but this budget, if enacted, would leave families in need with fewer school options,” Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement on the recently released budget. She added that the decision would only bolster the rising anti-charter sentiment that prevails in the modern Democratic party.

“The president’s proposal to collapse the Charter Schools Program into a block grant with other federal education programs would jeopardize the ability of community leaders to start new schools because it would put too much power in the hands of anti-charter politicians at the state level,” Rees stated.

Prominent Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are both against the expansion of charter schools, while Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are against the expansion of for-profit charters.

The White House’s 2021 budget for the Education Department decreases the agency’s annual budget by 7.8 percent to $66.6 billion. As part of the cut, the Trump administration will consolidate all 29 of its grant programs into a single block grant of $19.4 billion to incentivize state and local initiatives, while allowing the federal government to “significantly reduce” its footprint, and also will “reduce staffing and administrative costs over time.”

The proposal cites the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind and was signed into law by former president Obama in 2015, as restoring “greater State and local control over education while maintaining key accountability and reporting requirements aimed at protecting students, supporting meaningful school improvement efforts, and giving parents the information they need to choose a high-quality education for their children.”

Rees argues that the move shifts the focus away from “high-quality, tuition-free” opportunities.

“Combined with the $4.8 billion in proposed cuts to other public school funding, the president’s budget would cripple programs that both district and charter schools rely on to educate low-income students,” she states.

While the budget does not mention public charter funding, it does include a scholarship proposal of up to $5 billion annually for state programs to allow families to send their children to private school.

President Trump prominently featured his support for school choice in last week’s State of the Union address, including giving a scholarship to a fourth-grade girl from Philadelphia as proof of his war against “failing government schools.”

While the Trump campaign flaunted the move, The Philadelphia Inquirer later reported that the girl was already attending a new public charter, Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III — which received 6,500 applications for 100 seats next year.

Stephanie Davis, the girl’s mother, said she was “really surprised” and “honored” by Trump’s announcement, but revealed she was happy with her daughter’s recent enrollment at MaST, and was not sure if they would take the scholarship.

“I don’t view MaST as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity,” Davis said.

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