Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will personally provide the scholarship that will allow Philadelphia fourth-grade student Janiyah Davis, who attended the State of the Union (SOTU) address, to enroll at the school of her choice.
A spokeswoman for DeVos confirmed to Breitbart News in an email statement the secretary will be personally paying for Janiyah to attend another school.
“In her personal capacity, the Secretary donates her salary every year to different organizations and charities,” said Elizabeth Hill. “In this instance, she will be directly providing the scholarship for Janiyah to the school of the family’s choice.”
President Donald Trump invited Janiyah and her mother, Stephanie, to be his special guests at his State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
The president said an “inclusive society” is one that ensures “every young American gets a great education.”
“[F]or too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools,” he said. “To rescue these students, 18 states have created school choice in the form of Opportunity Scholarships. The programs are so popular, that tens of thousands of students remain on waiting lists.”
Janiyah has attended low-performing schools in Philadelphia. Stephanie, her single mother, attempted to apply for a tax credit scholarship, but, since Pennsylvania’s Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed school choice expansion legislation, Janiyah’s mother has been unable to send her to a better school.
“But there is more to their story,” Trump continued during his speech. “Janiyah, I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over. 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!”
In June, Wolf vetoed what would have been a major expansion of Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship program, Penn Live reported.
The legislation, spearheaded by Pennsylvania Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, would have doubled the number of tax credits the state would give to businesses and individual donors who fund scholarships for children to leave failing public schools and attend private, religious, or other types of schools.
As USA Today reported, currently the school choice scholarship waitlist in Pennsylvania is extremely long:
Between the two educational tax credit programs in that state, there are about 40,000 to 50,000 more applicants than available scholarships, said Michael Torres, spokesman for the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank that supports school choice.
In Wolf’s veto message, he stated:
This legislation prompts a serious question: why would the Commonwealth allow for the expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) that supports private institutions while our current public-school system remains underfunded?
We have public schools that are structurally deteriorating, contaminated by lead, and staffed by teachers who are not appropriately paid and overstretched in their responsibilities. Tackling these challenges, and others, should be our collective priority.
In his State of the Union address, Trump urged Congress to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, which would allow elementary, secondary, and vocational education scholarships by offering a federal tax credit to incentivize individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit scholarship funds.
Though progressive groups, such as the National Education Association (NEA), and their media allies often use the terms “tax credit scholarship” and “school voucher” interchangeably, they are different mechanisms used to bring about school choice.
Tonight, Donald Trump once again put the agenda of Betsy DeVos front and center in his #SOTU by renewing his push to divert scarce funding from the public schools that 90% of students attend into private school voucher programs.
— Lily Eskelsen García (@Lily_NEA) February 5, 2020
A school voucher is a direct transfer of taxpayer funds to a non-public school. Many Americans are opposed to school vouchers for different reasons. Progressives say vouchers will deplete public schools of needed financial resources, while conservatives note the “strings” that are attached to vouchers in the name of “accountability” for receiving public funds.
With tax credit scholarships, however, individual or corporate donors provide scholarship funds for students and receive tax credits. There is no transfer of public funds for tax credit scholarships. Instead, the money goes from the donor to the student’s family. However, many constitutionalists would prefer tax credit scholarship programs remain in the realm of the states and local governments, in order to keep the federal government out of education altogether.
Most Democrats are generally opposed to school choice mechanisms because the teachers’ unions oppose them.