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Donald Trump and School Choice: An Increasing Focus?

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 18, 2016 2 min read
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In a Tuesday speech in West Bend, Wisc. tailored for the African-American community, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump expanded on his brief mention of K-12 at the Republican National Convention by mentioning a few teacher-related policies and his thoughts on charter schools. In fact, since the convention, he seems to be putting a little more emphasis on school choice policy in particular.

Trump first criticized the performance of schools in Milwaukee, which is about 40 miles from West Bend, saying the city has only a 60 percent graduation rate and that 55 city schools are rated as failing. Despite Trump’s record of stretching facts, these two particular claims are based on data. Politifact Wisconsin reported in May that 61 percent of Milwaukee students graduated after four years in 2014. And the state did rate 55 Milwaukee schools as “fails to meet expectations” on the state report card, based on data from the 2013-14 school year.

He then pivoted to K-12 policy questions, which he has largely neglected during the 2016 race.

“On education, it is time to have school choice, merit pay for teachers, and to end the tenure policies that hurt good teachers and reward bad teachers. We are going to put students and parents first,” Trump told the audience.

In the past, Trump has been critical of teachers’ unions’ impact on school and their fear of competition. He’s also argued that Democrats protect the unions in exchange for political backing.

He also took a shot at his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, saying she “would rather deny opportunities to millions of young African-American children” in order to prop up the “education bureaucracy.” And he said that Democrats in charge of cities have “ruined the schools.”

That’s similar to his RNC speech, in which he backed parental choice of schools and blasted Clinton’s support for bureaucrats.

And Trump said he would allow charter schools specifically to “thrive.” It’s worth noting that since the RNC, he’s worked support for school choice into at least three August speeches: in West Bend, during his economic policy speech in Detroit, and during a speech in Wilmington, N.C. He also brought up child care last week.

Have you made it this far? Then you can keep going by checking out our comparison of Clinton and Trump on key K-12 policy issues, like testing, teaching, and school safety.

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