Federal

Donald Trump Backs Merit Pay, Funds for School Choice

By Alyson Klein — September 13, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is pledging that, if elected, he’d be the “nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice” and would offer states the chance to use $20 billion in federal money to create vouchers allowing children in poverty to attend the public, charter, or private school of their choice.

In a speech at a charter school in Cleveland, he also said he’s a supporter of merit pay for teachers—a signature policy of both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush’s administrations—although he did not explain how he hopes to further the cause, other than rhetorically taking aim at tenure.

“There is no policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said. “The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth” in struggling schools.

“We want every inner-city child in America to have the freedom to attend any school,” he said.

Trump said that the $20 billion in federal funds could be combined with more than $100 billion in state and local money to create vouchers of up to $12,000 annually for the nation’s poorest kids.

He did not say where the $20 billion would come from, but it’s possible he was referring to Title I money for disadvantaged students, funded at about $15.5 billion right now. His plan would depend on state and local cooperation: If states and districts decided not to add their own money to the federal financing, the scholarships would be pretty paltry.

Common Theme

Trump’s school choice plan is similar to what 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed for K-12 in 2012.

And last year, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., introduced amendments to what became the Every Student Succeeds Act that would have allowed federal money to follow students to the school of their choice, public or private. Those amendments failed to get enough support to pass the House or Senate.

But Messer said in an interview this summer that he thinks the policy could get new life under a potential Trump administration.

On merit pay for teachers, Trump said only that he finds it unfair that “bad ones” sometimes earn “more than the good ones.” Obama also encouraged districts to adopt performance pay, through the Race to the Top competition and the $230 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which Bush started.

Trump’s main rival for the White House, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hasn’t addressed the issue of merit pay head-on recently, but she has said that she’s not in favor of tying teacher evaluations to test scores, which also was a signature Obama policy.

Trump also hit some of the K-12 themes he’s sounded throughout the campaign, attacking the Common Core State Standards and arguing that the United States spends more on education than most other developed countries for iffy results.

Jeanne Allen, the founder of the Center for Education Reform, which supports school choice, called the idea “pie in the sky,” given the current Washington political dynamic.

But she also noted that Trump did not say the $20 billion for his school choice idea would have to come from the current U.S. Department of Education budget.

But Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said in a statement that “No matter what you call it, vouchers take dollars away from our public schools to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense with little to no regard for our students.”

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Project 2025 and the GOP Platform: What Each Says About K-12 in a 2nd Trump Term
A side-by-side look at what the two policy documents say on key education topics.
1 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Federal What the 2024 GOP Platform Says About K-12 and What It Would Mean If Trump Wins
We break down what the GOP's 2024 policy platform says about education.
7 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Federal Q&A Ed Research Isn't Always Relevant. This Official Is Trying to Change That
Matthew Soldner, the acting director of the Institute of Education Sciences, calls for new approaches to keep up with classroom tools.
5 min read
USmap ai states 535889663 02
Laura Baker/Education Week with iStock/Getty
Federal Project 2025: What It Is and What It Means for K-12 If Trump Wins
The comprehensive policy agenda proposes eliminating the U.S. Department of Education under a conservative president.
4 min read
Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Democrats are using the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 agenda to show what could happen in a Trump presidency while the former president distances himself from it.
George Walker IV/AP