President Donald Trump made school choice a significant focus of his State of the Union address. One of his guests was Janiyah Davis, a fourth-grader in Philadelphia who was blocked from attending the school of her choice by the veto pen of Pennsylvania’s governor. Specifically, the veto was for legislation there to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which is extremely popular in North Carolina, despite our own governor’s opposition. The fact that most on the other side of the aisle could not stand or even politely clap for a fourth-grade girl receiving a new educational opportunity says a lot about the partisan nature of this issue.
Certainly, Trump is aggressively highlighting school choice as part of his outreach to minorities for his reelection campaign, but he signaled his support for those policies early in his first presidential campaign, especially when he named Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education after his election. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, called Trump’s “leadership” on this issue “historic.”
There is a lot of debate around what are the best school choice policies and the dangers of more federal involvement in education, but undoubtedly, Trump’s praise for school choice is a tremendous boon for North Carolina given its overwhelming popularity in the state. Civitas Polls continually show tremendous support for school choice across the state with Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
It’s likely that Trump will be talking up the issue in North Carolina, given the high probability that he will make a significant number of campaign stops in the state before the 2020 election.
Furthermore, many of our state politicians and lawmakers are lagging behind North Carolinians in the demand for more educational choices. It’s a reminder that on the issue of school choice, Trump is closer to the people than some of our own state legislators and certainly our governor.
Hopefully, continued focus by the president will move lawmakers here to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program. It has been proven that continuing to spend more and more money merely on a status quo educational system is not in the best interest of students.
Like Janiyah, thousands of children in North Carolina are looking for opportunities to potentially transform the trajectory of their lives and boost all-around flourishing. Partisanship and the quest to consolidate more political power should never be an obstacle to improving educational opportunities and outcomes.
If Trump and the people of North Carolina get that, shouldn’t more lawmakers in North Carolina?