Trump to visit Florida Catholic school to tout choice



Days after he called on Congress to pass a school choice bill, President Donald Trump is set to visit a Catholic school in Orlando Friday, along with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, where hundreds of students attend the school using a voucher from the state's tax credit scholarship program.

During his stop at St. Andrew Catholic School, Trump is expected to once again tout the Sunshine State's program, as he did in his recent address to Congress. Under Florida's plan, the state uses public dollars to pay for private K-12 school tuition for low-income students and students with disabilities.

The Trump administration has yet to outline how it will pursue the president's plan to steer $20 billion in federal funding to school choice policies – a pledge he made on the campaign trail. His forthcoming budget is likely to restore and expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship, but it's unclear whether a larger school choice package will come in the form of voucher or a tax credit.

But in a new report published Friday, researchers for the Center for American Progress argue that a voucher plan may not be a viable policy solution for 85 percent of the country's school districts.

The report identified 9,000 school districts – out of the roughly 13,000 school district in the U.S. – that its researchers categorized as "sparse," where there are four or fewer schools and where voucher proposals are "highly unlikely to work and could decimate the public system." The report identifies another 2,200 school districts as "average," where there are five to eight schools and where vouchers "may not work and risk harming existing schools' ability to serve millions of students."

Opponents of voucher programs and tax credit scholarships say voucher programs take money away from neighborhood public schools. And because the private and religious schools operate outside the federal checks and balances placed on public schools, opponents also argue that they lack accountability, increase segregation and fail to protect students from discrimination.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step from Air Force One to attend a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump applauds his crowd as he holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania Trump during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump smiles a as he holds a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump invites a supporter onstage with him during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People attend a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A supporter awaits the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a rally on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump are seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step from Air Force One as they arrive for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump hugs a supporter he invited onstage to speak during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump acknowledge supporters during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump invites a supporter onstage with him during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump listens as his wife, First Lady Melania Trump recites the Lord's Prayer during a rally in Melbourne, Florida on February 18, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People attend a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump is seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: A woman shows off her middle fingers as she and others look on at the media during a campaign rally by President Donald Trump at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania Trump during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump are seen during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
First Lady Melania Trump salutes the crowd after introducing her husband, US President Donald Trump at the start of a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump hold signs during a rally on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Herb Planchock waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Ken Temple waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Gary Snow of Jacksonville, Florida, a supporter of US.President Donald Trump, stages a lone vigil against anti-government protesters during a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017. / AFP / Gregg Newton / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Billy Mauro waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Thousands of supporters of US President Donald Trump form a long queue for a rally at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017. / AFP / Gregg Newton / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Robie Potts waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump for a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. President Trump is holding his rally as he continues to try to push his agenda through in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Moreover, a series of studies on the effectiveness of voucher programs in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio – the largest voucher programs in the country – do much to discredit their effectiveness.

Students who won publicly funded vouchers to escape their failing public schools and enroll in private schools in Louisiana, for example, are doing worse academically than those who weren't awarded vouchers and remained in low-performing schools, according to twodifferent studies.

"It's sad that rather then [SIC] listening to the public they are sworn to represent and who have a deep connection to public schools, Trump and DeVos' first official joint trip is to a religious school, which they use as a backdrop for their ideological crusade," American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement ahead of Friday's visit.

Weingarten, who leads the 1.5-million member teachers union, said Trump and DeVos should have instead visited a public school that's getting good results for its students despite difficult socio-economic pressures, such as the Evans Community School, which offers health and dental care, a food bank, free meals, and after-school and education programs for families.

"To borrow a word from President Trump, it's so 'sad' that the president and his secretary of education have demonstrated such an antipathy toward public schools," she said.

Supporters of such programs, however, say they allow students to escape chronically failing schools and provide parents with choices when they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford tuition at a private or religious school.

"The numbers continue to show that increasing school options has a positive effect on students generally, and an even greater impact on poor and minority students," DeVos wrote in an op-ed in USA Today on Thursday. "If we truly want to provide better education to underserved communities, then it must start with giving parents and students school choice."

Private school choice programs currently exist in 27 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and are primarily used by families who live in and around urban school districts where the majority of private and religious schools are located. Rural school districts, where 25 percent of the country's K-12 students reside, have few if any options outside the public school system.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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