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Donald Trump Taps Indiana Lawmaker’s Staffer to Craft School Choice Plan

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 29, 2016 3 min read
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Republican nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has tapped Rob Goad, who has worked for Indiana GOP Rep. Luke Messer in Congress, to work on school choice issues in the real estate executive’s bid for the White House.

Goad is on leave from Messer’s office and for the past two weeks has been in New York City working for the Trump campaign as a policy adviser, according to sources. He’s the first adviser for Trump to focus specifically on education issues. The campaign’s aim is to have Goad flesh out Trump’s previously stated support for school choice, specifically choice programs that have been successful in states, and possibly work on other K-12 education issues as well.

Goad may also work on higher education policy for Trump, whose campaign approached Goad about joining the campaign team.

Goad is a senior policy adviser for Messer who has handled both school choice issues specifically and K-12 policy in general in Messer’s office and has worked there for five years. Messer himself is a member of the House education committee. Messer has criticized some of Trump’s more controversial statements on issues not related to education, but has also indicated his support for Trump. Messer previously backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also a big fan of school choice, for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump has largely neglected K-12 during his quest for the White House, aside from brief statements supporting school choice, attacks on the Common Core State Standards, and a pledge to end gun-free school zones. But Goad’s shift to the Trump election team coincides with a new emphasis on K-12 choice in particular for the Republican presidential nominee.

Recently on the campaign trail, Trump has been speaking more frequently about his support for school choice as part of a recent attempt to win African-

American votes by decrying the state of education in inner cities.

And earlier this month, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said that there would be an upcoming “education week” for Trump’s campaign. In fact, one interpretation of her remarks would be that “education week” is supposed to be this week. But that plan isn’t set in stone. Remember that back in April, the Trump campaign signaled that he would be giving a policy speech on education as part of a series of such remarks—he has yet to deliver such a speech.

A Track Record on Choice

Picking a staffer from Messer’s office, in particular, to work on K-12 choice policies seems like a logical move by the campaign.

Last month at an event in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, Messer spoke about the challenge of increasing school choice without creating a “federal Department of School Choice.”

And during the push to reauthorize federal education law last year, Messer backed a plan to allow Title I funds earmarked for students from low-income backgrounds to be used for private schools. (In Washington shorthand, this proposal has been dubbed “Title I portability.”)

But the idea didn’t get traction and wasn’t included in what became the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In March, the Republican Policy Committee, for which Goad is listed as a staffer, held a briefing called “School Choice: Fact vs. Fiction & Recent Developments.” The briefing featured Messer, as well as prominent school choice supporters like Gerard Robinson, the former Florida education commissioner now at the American Enterprise Institute, and Adam Peshek, the director of education choice at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by Jeb Bush.

Last year, Messer and his fellow Hoosier on the House education committee, GOP Rep. Todd Rokita, also questioned the distribution of federal money for charter schools in Indiana under state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Photos: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally earlier this month in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Evan Vucci); Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., arrives before a House Financial Services committee hearing on the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council last June (Andrew Harnik/AP-File).

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