Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised a bold federal push on education Thursday, saying if he is elected president he will spend $20 billion to expand school choice around the country, and calling for an end to tenure at the K-12 level.
Trump used a visit to a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio, as an opportunity to offer more details on his education plan. A core part of that plan is to re-allocate $20 billion in federal funds as a block grant to the states for the sake of promoting school choice.
Other than this general mission, the grant would give states substantial leeway to use the money however they wish. Trump said the money would have to benefit individual low-income students (rather than schools), and that the grants would favor states that have enacted strong school choice laws.
“There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump told the crowd in Cleveland. ”
In a statement issued alongside his speech, Trump’s campaign said his presidency would make it a national priority to provide a choice of schools to every low-income child in the country.
“The parents will be so happy,” Trump said. “They’ll walk their children to schools they want to be at.”
Trump’s education plan also calls for replacing the “failed tenure system” of K-12 schools with a system of merit pay for all teachers.
Trump’s speech was one of the few times the candidate has focused on K-12 education since clinching the Republican nomination last May, but it meshed well with his recent efforts to reach out to non-white voters. Polls have shown black and Hispanic voters consider education a major issue and are typically in favor of school choice.
“The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success,” he said.
In a press conference following the event, Trump also repeated his pledge to repeal Common Core math and English standards nationwide, which attracted some derision even on the political right.
The Collaborative for Student Success (CSS), a conservative education advocacy group founded by former Trump rival Jeb Bush, harshly criticized his take on Common Core, saying Trump appeared to not even understand what Common Core is. (RELATED: Trump’s Common Core Promises Can’t Be Met)
“Donald Trump fundamentally misunderstands the Common Core,” the group said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The President cannot overturn actions individually taken by more than 40 states. Similarly, we assume he is unaware that Congress passed and the President signed a new law which permanently returns control over academic standards to the states. In the end, his clamor about ending the Common Core is both obsolete and irrelevant.”
The law CSS is referencing is last years Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind as the main federal law governing K-12 education. The law explicitly bars the federal government from requiring states to adopt Common Core or any other set of academic standards.
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