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Critics Express Concerns Over President Trump's Education Proposals

In his first Joint Address to Congress, President Donald Trump laid out his proposals for school choice funding and early child care. Since the president did not delve into specifics, many policy experts are wondering how these programs will be paid for and who will ultimate benefit from their implementation.

President Trump once again reiterated that "[e]ducation is the civil rights issue of our time." In keeping with this theme, Trump framed his school choice proposal as a way of enfranchising "disadvantaged youth, including millions of African American and Latino children." Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have strongly supported school choice voucher programs because they believe these initiatives allow all students access to a quality education. Critics, however, fear that a national voucher program could lead to systemic abuses because these alternative schools are not subjected to the same level of regulations and accountability standards as public schools. 

In terms of how this national school voucher program would be funded, The LA Times reports that a tax credit program would likely be the source of funding for this program. These tax credit programs would "allow people and corporations to allocate some of their tax money to nonprofits that administer scholarships, and student recipients can choose from a list of private schools," according to the Times. 

Joyce Resmovits of the Times speculates that Florida could be used as the model for this national voucher program. The Florida program allows corporations to "allocate up to 75% of their income tax toward scholarship programs, and most students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch qualify." However, the effectiveness of this program on academic outcomes was called into question in a recent report which found that "students enrolled in private schools through the state's tax credit program for poor students didn't improve their test scores from one year to the next."

Another potential concern involves the fact that not all parts of the country will have the opportunity to utilize the program, given the scarce availability of private schools in some rural areas. 

President Trump also tackled the issue of child care in his speech, vowing to "make child care more affordable and accessible" to parents. According to CNN Money, Trump's proposal calls for "three new tax benefits and paid family leave for new parents."

However, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) concluded that Trump's proposal primarily benefits the affluent. "The tax experts at TPC say 70% of the benefits will go to families that make $100,000 or more. And 25% will go to people earning $200,000 or more," according to CNN Money. Elaine Maag, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, said to CNN that she agrees with Trump that the cost of child care is onerous for lower- and middle-class families, but believes that "his proposal would do little or nothing to help them." Low-income families who do not pay federal income taxes would not be eligible to apply for the deduction. For couples making $30,000, the TPC estimates that they would only receive a $574 return.

Another overriding concern is the potential exorbitant cost of the program. According to CNN, the Tax Policy Center estimates that "just the tax deductions and credits will cost $115 billion over the next decade," while the Tax Foundation projects a "cost $500 billion over the next decade.”

Although a school choice bill will likely split votes along party lines, it will be interesting to see if the Trump administration is willing to modify his child care plan in an effort to attract bipartisan support. 

 

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor, and Richard Conklin, Education World Editor.

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