In today’s Federal Flash, we’ll discuss the education proposals made by President Trump during his state of the union address, commemorate Black History Month, and look towards Digital Learning Day.
President Trump’s State of the Union Education Proposal: $5 Billion Federal Tax Credit to Support School Choice
President Trump used part of his State of the Union address to promote a proposal to create a $5 billion federal tax credit to support school choice. Specifically, President Trump is asking Congress to create new federal tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships students can use to attend private schools or workforce training organizations. Known as tax credit scholarships, similar programs are in place in nearly 20 states. The Administration’s proposal – the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act – would expand the concept nationwide.
That bill, sponsored by two republicans: Senator Ted Cruz in the Senate and Representative Bradley Byrne in the House, has little chance of becoming law. Democrats in Congress have argued the proposal would take resources away from public education. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers raised similar concerns, adding that tax credit scholarships are a back-door route to school vouchers—sentiments shared by All4Ed’s President Deb Delisle. Moreover, and perhaps more surprising, some conservative groups, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, have criticized the proposal as increasing the federal role in education and intervening in state policy.
Opportunity Scholarship, A Confusing Offer
During the State of the Union, President Trump announced that a Pennsylvania fourth grader would be receiving an Opportunity Scholarship. Some found this announcement confusing, because the president’s proposal is just that – a proposal – and it is unlikely to become law. To clarify, the student will not be receiving an Opportunity Scholarship from the federal government. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is personally paying for her scholarship, though we don’t know the size or duration of the scholarship at this time.
We Celebrate Black History Month
February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements and central role of African-Americans in U.S. history. The brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson, it began as a week-long celebration in 1926. Since 1976, however, every U.S. President has officially designated the entire month of February as Black History Month.
To commemorate Black History Month, we are sharing a few stories of courageous African-American students. On February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, four North Carolina college freshmen walked downtown to “sit-in” at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth’s department store. The students refused to leave when denied service and remained at the counter until the store closed. This action prompted similar sit-ins across the country and, by the third week of February 1960, demonstrations had spread to at least 250 major towns and cities. By the end of July, Woolworth’s had desegregated its lunch counter. 2020 marks 60 years since the Woolworth’s sit-in.
Also 60 years ago, six-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first African-American student to integrate an elementary school in the south in November 1960. Despite the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which found racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, Ruby’s New Orleans school district was resisting school integration. The school district created enhanced exams for African-American students to see if they could compete academically with White students. Ruby and five other students passed the exam. Ruby enrolled in the formerly all-White school, and she and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to school every day that year.
Digital Learning Day is Almost Here
Lastly, Digital Learning Day is quickly approaching on Thursday, February 27. Digital learning is any instructional practice that uses technology effectively to strengthen a student’s learning experience. Since 2012, Digital Learning Day has provided an opportunity for education leaders to highlight great teaching practice and showcase innovative teachers, leaders, and instructional technology programs that are improving student outcomes. Last year, educators hosted more than 2,300 Digital Learning Day events. Visit digitallearningday.org to add your event to this year’s list and spread the word!