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Education Reform a Bipartisan Theme in Past Five President’s State of the Union Addresses

Tonight’s State of the Union address by President Donald J. Trump will very likely include more than a passing reference to education reform, and specifically, the Administration’s effort to enact education freedom scholarships to help low-income students choose the schools they’d prefer to attend outside of their attendance zone.

Tonight will not be the first time, nor the last, that a president makes a national pitch for giving parents like Stephanie Davis, one of the president’s guests tonight, more power to direct the education of their children, a right that the U.S. Supreme Court has validated time and time again.

It’s not just Republicans, like Ronald Reagan who in 1986 used his address to advocate Congress to support “vouchers that give parents freedom of choice.”

Democratic President Bill Clinton in 2000 asked Congress to for his support to “help us meet our goal of 3,000 charter schools by next year."

In his first address to Congress in 2001, President George W. Bush addressed what to do when schools continue to fail students: "Yet if they don’t, if they continue to fail, we must give parents and students different options: a better public school, a private school, tutoring, or a charter school. In the end, every child in a bad situation must be given a better choice, because when it comes to our children, failure is simply not an option."

In 2007, President Bush suggested, "We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better." In 2008, he praised the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, a bipartisan program then and now.

In 2009, President Barack Obama proclaimed, "[W]e will expand our commitment to charter schools." Three years later, he embraced the bipartisan nature of education reform by stating: “I'm a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That's why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states.”

Courtesy of the White House

Throughout the country, charter school and education choice laws have always enjoyed bipartisan support. So tonight when President Trump calls on Congress to enact a program to give parents more options and highlights the needs of those like his special guests Stephanie and Janiyah Davis from Philadelphia, remember that this isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last time a president recognizes the depth of need and support for ensuring every child has access to the best education that meets his or her need. The same choice valued in higher education and funded by states and the federal government should finally become the law of the land for every student in America, no matter what their age, and regardless of who calls for it.

 


Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

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