President Trump’s re-election campaign used two speeches in the national televised prime time of the Republican National Convention to highlight the issue of school choice.
In the speech that ended the night and got the most attention, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said:
I realized a quality education is the closest thing we have to magic in America.
That’s why I fight to this day for school choice…to make sure every child, in every neighborhood has a quality education.
I don’t care if it’s a public, private, charter, virtual or home school.
When a parent has a choice, their kid has a better chance. And the President has fought alongside me on that.
Donald Trump Jr.’s speech, which preceded that of Senator Scott said, in part:
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that could afford the best schools and the finest universities. But a great education cannot be the exclusive right of the rich and powerful. It must be accessible to all.
That’s why my dad is pro-school choice. That’s why he called education access the civil rights issue of not just our time–but of all time. It is unacceptable that too many African American and Hispanic American children are stuck in bad schools just because of their zip code. Donald Trump will not stand for it.
If Democrats really wanted to help minorities and underserved communities, instead of bowing to big money union bosses, they’d let parents choose what school is best for their kids.
Trump Jr. also touched briefly on education in one of the most stinging lines of the night: “it’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism– or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, ‘peaceful protesting.’” Some commentators have blamed Trump for the lack of in-person school, faulting his management of the coronavirus pandemic and arguing that he has stoked Democratic opposition to school-opening by coming out so strongly in favor of it. The president has urged schools to open, staging a “Getting Children Safely Back to School” White House event to push the point.
Last week’s Democratic national convention did not offer such extended prime-time attention to K-12 education issues, though vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said she “helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges.” Said Harris, “I know a predator when I see one.” Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered her speech at an early-childhood education center in Springfield, Mass., highlighting Biden’s plan to expand access to early-childhood education. And Jill Biden delivered her convention speech from a classroom at Brandywine High School, in Wilmington, Delaware, where she taught English.
Trump devoted a substantial portion of his 2020 State of the Union address to a call for school choice. Biden voted for a private school tuition tax credit three times in 1978 but has since retreated from that position.
Ira Stoll is managing editor of Education Next.