AFSA President Woodard Responds to Trump’s Address to Congress

President Donald Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress in his presidency on Tuesday, February 28. In response, AFSA President Diann Woodard issued the following statement:

“I applaud the president for his commitment to rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. His call to invest $1 trillion dollars in the infrastructure of the United States will surely help to revitalize our economy, and his pledge to ‘Buy American, and Hire American’, is admirable. Although no policy details were released, I truly hope his plan will include a significant investment in our nation’s schools. It is unacceptable that so many of our children are sent to learn in crumbling, dilapidated conditions,”

“President Trump also exclaimed that ‘education is the civil rights issue of our time’. I could not agree more. Far too many students are currently attending schools that are not receiving adequate support and resources. However, the president’s answer to this problem is to expand school choice, and that is not the correct answer,”

“To support school choice, the president told a heartwarming story about Denisha Merriweather. Denisha struggled in her school, and ultimately succeeded at a private facility, and is now succeeding in her life. I am so happy for Denisha. However, for every Denisha, there are hundreds of children who will never have access to private schools, no matter what the president pledges,”

“What is needed is a significant increase in the federal investment for education. Unlike private institutions, public schools open their doors to all students. They serve children with physical, emotional and mental disabilities, those who are extremely gifted, and those who are learning challenged, right along with children without special needs . School choice would undermine this vital function, however, by diverting desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students—without offering any actual reforms—and without being held to the same standards as public schools,”

“The president also recently released his budget request, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. While a strong, well-funded national defense program is important, it must not come at the expense of discretionary programs. The president’s proposal flies in the face of the parity principal that has been the foundation for bipartisan budget proposals since 2011. By lifting the sequester on only defense spending, discretionary programs would be unequally slashed, and our most vulnerable Americans will suffer,”

“If President Trump, and U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, truly wish to improve the educational opportunities for all students, they must take these factors into account. AFSA represents thousands of school leaders, in several of the largest urban centers across our country. Our members have witnessed firsthand the value public schools have. For some children, their community public school is the most stable thing in their lives. Diverting already depleted resources from these community treasures, will force them to eliminate critical programs, and harm the very children the president is seeking to help. I truly hope the administration will consider AFSA a resource and consider our unique expertise in these areas, and when developing education policy.”