Donald Trump Jr Uses Speech to Advocate for School Choice

(Photo: The Daily Beast)

(Photo: The Daily Beast)

In his speech at the Republican National Convention last week, Donald Trump Jr. touched upon the education system currently in use in the United States and made a push for school choice across the country.

“Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class; now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students. You know why other countries do better on K through 12? They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.”

School choice offers parents the opportunity to enroll their children into schools separate from the ones that had been assigned to them by the public school system.  In some instances, state funding, or school vouchers, are given to parents to help their children afford the school of their choice.

The debate over the issue is mainly over the question of whether these school vouchers actually help to improve student outcomes, but Michigan State University scholar Joshua Cowen says the answer is not that simple.

“What we know about school vouchers depends on what we ask. And what we ask should be informed not only by traditional academic outcomes, such as test scores, but also by a new understanding of the many different ways that schools can contribute to student success.”

Meanwhile, charter schools, which are public schools that are afforded more autonomy than traditional schools, offer another choice for parents. These schools are typically organized around a central mission or philosophy.

However, Cowen states that the schools are not all created equally, as the basic structure of who is able to operate a charter school and what oversight they face vary by state.  While some are run by nonprofit organizations, others are run for a fee by a for-profit company.  In addition, success rates vary as well, with one study of schools in 27 states that include 95% of the charter schools in the nation finding charter advantages, but not in every state as a result of varying state laws.

Donald Trump recently named Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate for the election.  Pence supports an increase for charter schools, a boost to the cap on the dollar amount of vouchers for private schools, and an expansion for merit pay for teachers in his home state.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said that while Mike Pence is loved by extreme Republicans and the Tea Party, he has not provided students, families or public schools in his home state with favorable results.

Pence received an F on the official NEA legislative report card for eight of his 12 years as a member of Congress, writes Maureen Sullivan for Forbes.

In its recent biennial convention, the American Federation of Teachers endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  The union became the first to publicly back Clinton last June after it chose her over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.  The AFT expects its members to make over 1 million phone calls and knock on over 500,000 doors prior to the November 8 election.