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President Trump Takes Action to Expand School Choice Options as Pandemic Closures Persist

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week to broaden parents' school choice options during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

The order provides for "emergency learning scholarships" which states make available to any child without access to in-person learning.

The scholarships can be used for:

  • Tuition and fees for a private or parochial school
  • Homeschool, microschool, or learning-pod costs
  • Special education and related services, including therapies
  • Tutoring or remedial education

The funds will be available to the states through the Community Services Block Grant program by the Health and Human Services Department. 

In the order, Trump said the federal government has provided more than $13 billion to states and school districts to implement the safe resumption of in-person learning.  

The President also noted that the loss of in-person learning opportunities has been hard on America's children and their families, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study which found that school closures have a "substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families." 

He also pointed out that school closures are difficult for families with children who have special needs since schools offer students support with in-person therapies and services, including physical and occupational therapies.

"A recent survey found that 80 percent of children with special needs are not receiving the services and supports to which they are entitled and that approximately 40 percent of children with special needs are receiving no services or supports," the president wrote. 

Trump warns that low-income and minority children appear to be the most affected by school closures.

"In low-income zip codes, students' math progress decreased by nearly 50 percent while school buildings were closed in the spring, and the math progress of students in middle-income zip codes fell by almost a third during the same period," his order said. "A recent analysis projected that, if in-person classes do not fully resume until January 2021, Hispanic, Black, and low-income students will lose 9.2, 10.3, and 12.4 months of learning, respectively," he wrote. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tweeted, "Too many students still lack access to much-needed in-person learning. @realDonaldTrump's Executive Order on #SchoolChoice demonstrates our continued commitment to empowering students with the resources they need to find the right fit for their education."

Read President Trump's entire executive order here.

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