WASHINGTON (AP) " President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Congress to work with him on extending school choice programs nationwide to benefit millions of students, including low-income African-American and Hispanic children.
"During my campaign for president, I promised to fight for school choice," Trump said. "Very important. "
Speaking at a White House event attended by about two dozen children, including some participating in a federally funded voucher program in the nation's capital, Trump said, "Every child has the right to fulfill their potential, and, if we do our jobs, then we will never have to tell young, striving Americans to defer their dreams for another day or for another decade. "
The Washington, D.C., voucher program allows low-income students to use federal funds to attend private schools. Although it is the nation's only federal funded voucher program, some states, including Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana, have funded similar programs.
The D.C. voucher program has been shown to increase graduation rates, but a government study released last week showed math scores dropping for students who participated.
Trump did not specify what he wanted Congress to do beyond asking lawmakers to "extend school choice to millions more children all across the United States of America, including millions of low-income Hispanic and African American children who deserve the same chance as every other child to live out their dreams and fill up their hearts and be educated at the top, top level."
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a long-time advocate for charter and private schools, has made school choice a priority. Her efforts have been met with fierce criticism from Democrats and teachers' unions, who fear that school choice options will hurt public schools.
"This administration remains committed to serving all students, especially the most vulnerable," DeVos said. "These students particularly benefit from school choice programs."
Marking national charter school week, DeVos said there are over 6,900 charter schools in the United States serving more than 3 million students. More are needed, she said.
"I believe it should be a right for every parent, not a privilege," DeVos said.