Wednesday, January 22, 2020
US flag

Trump addresses Congress for the 1st time

Although many polls about President Donald Trump are negative, one bright spot has been that more than half of Americans believe he is staying true to his campaign promises, the New York Times reports.

Mr Trump strongly steered clear of some of the harsh, and some say bigoted, language that characterized many of his biggest campaign speeches and spoke with passion to a joint session of Congress, invited guests, and a nationwide TV audience, yesterday evening, hoping to unite them all to deliver major overhauls of health-care and tax laws.

He called on lawmakers to rebuild the middle class and the nation’s inner cities, not just by financing “one global project after another,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began,” he said. “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.”

He also firmly denounced the bigotry of actions and words across America that some claim are being carried out in his name.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City,” he said, “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms. … That torch is now in our hands, and we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.”

On education, he provided very few details, but continued his general endorsement of school choice programs, calling education the “civil rights issue of our time.”

As a result, he asked Congress to “pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children,” adding that families “should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.”

One of the guests in the gallery for the president’s speech was Denisha Merriweather, who, according to Mr Trump, “struggled in school and failed third grade twice.” He said she then enrolled in a private school with the help of a tax credit scholarship and became “the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college.”

I want to caution readers against using this wonderful example of a successful individual in any kind of argument that supports school choice or other voucher programs. Most data suggests that the programs cause more harm than good to students who use tax credit scholarships or other voucher funds to help pay tuition at private or religious schools.

Plus, there are literally thousands, nay millions, of success stories involving graduates from high school and college who were eligible for, but didn’t accept, vouchers for one reason or another. Plenty of counter-examples can be found, even, of students who stayed in the public schools and became the first in their families to graduate “not just from high school, but from college.”

Ms Merriweather’s story is heartwarming, but her anecdote isn’t representative of the majority of data now coming out of longitudinal studies in much of America. Congress would be wise to consider more representative data if their interest lies in helping the kind of student Ms Merriweather was.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.