Federal

Donald Trump Backs Merit Pay, Funds for School Choice

By Alyson Klein — September 13, 2016 2 min read

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

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
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

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 Lawmakers Press CDC About Teachers' Union Influence on School Reopening Guidance
Republican senators asked CDC Director Rochelle Walensky about reports a teachers' union had input on guidance for schools on COVID-19.
3 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden's health care team on Dec. 8, 2020.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce then-President-elect Joe Biden's health care team on Dec. 8, 2020.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Biden Taps Ex-Obama Aide Roberto Rodriguez for Key Education Department Job
Rodriguez served as a top education staffer to President Barack Obama and currently leads a teacher-advocacy organization.
3 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
Getty
Federal Biden Pitches Plan to Expand Universal Pre-K, Free School Meal Programs, Teacher Training
The president's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan faces strong headwinds as Congress considers other costly administration proposals.
8 min read
President Joe Biden addresses Congress from the House chamber. Behind him are Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud.<br/>
Chip Somodevilla/AP
Federal Education Department Kicks Off Summer Learning Collaborative
The Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative will boost programs for students acutely affected by COVID-19 in 46 states.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 3, 2021.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via TNS