US President Donald Trump applauds Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos as she speaks at a podium.

Then president-elect Donald Trump claps as US Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos addresses a crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 9, 2016.

Credit:

Mike Segar/Reuters

Mr. President, what does your support of “school choice” mean for public schools?

President Donald Trump has offered some pretty clear-cut positions about his views on education.

He’s called Common Core and its federalization of education standards “a total disaster.” He’s proposed to appropriate $20 billion of the federal budget to “school choice.” And his pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, led a campaign to block a law that would have created greater oversight and new standards for Detroit’s ailing school system. Instead, she insisted that the city dismantle Detroit Public Schools and give charters an unregulated crack at fixing the city’s education woes.

So Trump seems to favor greater choice and less federal regulation in American education. But where, exactly, does that leave the country’s public schools?

During her confirmation hearing, DeVos was vague when responding to questions. In particular, she offered no specifics regarding how she would run Trump’s school choice initiative, a program that critics are concerned would divert funds from the nation’s public schools and redirect them private schools.

Incentivizing school districts to provide families with more choices about where their students go to school sounds like a good deal. What’s wrong with more choice?

For one thing, it is unclear whether charter schools actually result in better student performance. In DeVos’ home state of Michigan, for example, the Detroit Free Press found that students in charter schools are scoring lower on standardized tests without facing the same kinds of penalties that public schools face when their students underperform.

And while charter school advocates point to higher representations of minority and low-income students in charter schools, critics argue that school choice might actually lead to increased segregation in schools.   

Ushering free market principles like deregulation into the country’s education system vis-à-vis school choice could have ramifications for other questions, too, including whether guns are allowed in schools and whether private schools that teach religious principles should have access to public dollars.

This question actually came from students in a public school. Students in Shrewsbury High School’s Social Science Department joined our #100Days100Qs project by tweeting their suggestion of a question. We thought it was such a good one we made it today's question.

Will you answer these students, Mr. President? Click here to tweet the question.

Over President Donald Trump's roughly first 100 days, we'll be asking him questions that our audience wants answers to. Join the project by tweeting this question to @realDonaldTrump with the hashtag #100Days100Qs. See more of our questions at pri.org/100questions.

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