Recap: Education Topics in President Trump’s Address to Congress

Last night, President Trump spoke in his first speech before a Joint Session of Congress, where he outlined his budgetary priorities and other public policy goals for his administration in 2017, including education.

President Trump indicated that he believes education is “the civil rights issue of our time,” and called upon Congress to enact legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged children, particularly those in the African-American and Latino communities. The President further expressed that “families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.”

Capitol Building
Photo: / uschools

During his speech, President Trump took the time to recognize the success story of Denisha Merriweather, one of his six invited guests for the address.  Merriweather is a young woman who failed third grade twice at a Florida public school.  She was soon placed into a private school with help from Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program, which allows corporations to receive tax breaks when they donate to nonprofits that distribute the money in forms of scholarships to private or religious schools. By attending private school, Merriweather was able to turn her life around; she is a college graduate and is expecting to receive her master’s degree this upcoming Spring.

Despite the large focus on education, it was not clear from the speech on what form the President’s school choice legislation would take. Pundits have pitched several possibilities on how the President and his administration may accomplish their goal, including creating a block grant for his proposal, creating a tax-credit scholarship, similar to the one Merriweather benefited from, or simply bolstering funding towards existing federal programs that support school choice.

As noted in our Transition Statement to President Trump, unfortunately, the access of music education is not available in every American school or for every child, be it charter or district. Regardless of how the President hopes to accomplish his school choice proposal, NAfME will continue to monitor and advocate to him and his Administration to promote the study and making of music by all, regardless of one’s circumstance or background. 

Further Reading

Full Speech of President’s Trump Address to a Joint Session of Congress (The Hill)

Trump Calls Education ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time,’ Pushes Choice (Education Week)

Trump Invited a Student to his Joint Address. Her Story Says a lot About his Views on Education Reform (Washington Post)

Ronny Lau, Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, March 1, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (