According to CNN, “U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will personally pay for a school choice scholarship President Donald Trump awarded to a Philadelphia girl during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.”
During his speech, the President called on Congress to act on his school choice tax credit proposal, he introduced Janiyah Davis, and her mother Stephanie, who he had invited to sit in the gallery. They had sought a way out of her low-performing public school through Pennsylvania’s school-choice program, and were placed on a waitlist for a state scholarship to attend a better school outside her district. Trump’s proposal provides tax credits to individuals and businesses in exchange for donating to scholarships for students to attend private schools, or better schools outside the district.
“Janiyah’s mom Stephanie is a single parent. She would do anything to give her daughter a better future. But last year, that future was put further out of reach when Pennsylvania’s governor vetoed legislation to expand school choice for 50,000 children,” Trump said.
“Janiyah, I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over,” he continued. “I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available. It is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice.”
The Trump administration and Pennsylvania Republicans say students should be able to receive funding to attend the schools of their choice.
DeVos and Trump proposed to create a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for donations to programs providing funding to students to attend private schools or other state-approved education. But it has stalled in Congress. Democrats and the teachers’ unions, have raised concern about drawing money away from and weakening the traditional public education system and exacerbating school segregation.
“Instead of peddling another tax giveaway for rich people that’s been soundly rejected by Congress, the President should listen to the 90% of parents who proudly send their kids to public schools and who have been betrayed by this administration at each and every turn,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement following the President’s address.
On Thursday, a Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that DeVos would pay for a year of tuition at the school of Davis’ choice as part of DeVos’ regular donation of her federal salary to charitable causes.
“The White House and the Department worked together to find a very deserving family who had applied for a scholarship and wanted to send their child to a school that best fit their needs,” the spokeswoman said.
“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools,” Trump said.
DeVos, whose family’s net worth has been estimated at $2 billion, has long been a proponent of school choice policies. She and her husband opened a charter school of their own and spent millions of dollars over the years to lobby for big changes to Michigan schools, among other issues, CNN reports.
“This administration wants every American, no matter their age, income, zip code, or stage in life, to have access to K-12 and higher education options that work for them, unlock their individual potential, and help them pursue successful careers in our booming economy,” she said in a statement Tuesday.