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Press Release

NEA slams Trump-Devos pursuit of school vouchers in COVID relief package

Citing the Civil Rights Act anniversary, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia reacts to President Trump's announcement that he will pursue a $5 billion voucher program in the next COVID-19 relief package.
Published: July 2, 2020

WASHINGTON - July 02, 2020 - President Donald Trump has made known his intention to pursue a $5 billion voucher program in the next COVID-19 relief package. The following statement can be attributed to Lily Eskelsen García, a sixth grade school teacher who serves as president of the 3-million member National Education Association:

“Betsy DeVos unsuccessfully has pushed an agenda to privatize public education by any means necessary since she was confirmed as Secretary of Education, including by using the coronavirus pandemic to funnel relief funds from public schools to wealthy private schools. Today’s announcement that the Trump administration is pursuing a $5 billion voucher program in the next COVID-19 relief package is just the latest move in their mission. DeVos celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision this week in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, in which Trump appointees joined the far-right effort to undermine public schools — one of our country’s most cherished democratic institutions — by removing state constitutional protections against school vouchers. And now DeVos and Trump are asking Congress to fund dollar-for-dollar tax credits for businesses to fund school vouchers, even after these businesses have just received billions of dollars in relief funding. This is a direct assault on our nation’s children.

“It should escape no one’s attention that vouchers all too frequently have been used to further segregation and promote discrimination. The historical origins of vouchers come out of a Virginia county shutting down its public schools and opening white academies to avoid adhering to Brown v. Board of Education. That the Trump administration is oblivious to that history is particularly evident given their attempt to wrap their privatization initiative in the rhetoric of civil rights. We, of course, realize that this administration never understands the history of civil rights in America — before or today — but to rehash DeVos’s privatization proposal on the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a day after Trump made disparaging comments about a Black Lives Matter sign in New York City is beyond the pale. Their actions are shameless, hurtful and deeply offensive, and Congress should rightly reject their proposal. 

“Private schools by their nature are exclusive, and virtually all of them exclude certain students for one reason or another. The vast majority of private schools — both religious and non-religious — requires entrance exams or other pre-admissions screening, and they reserve the right to refuse students based on academic ability or disciplinary history, regardless of whether the applicant has a ‘disability.’ Private schools routinely refuse to serve students with disabilities or special needs. Private religious schools, which represent up to 95 percent of voucher enrollment, either refuse to admit students of different religions or grant special admissions privileges to students of the same religion as the school. That’s not to mention how some religious private schools have discriminated against or terrorized LGBTQ students. A recent investigative report by the Huffington Post showed that private schools receiving voucher money were continuing with controversial, debunked and dangerous conversion therapy.

“Students have a civil right to a public education free from discrimination. What the Trump administration is proposing will cause a ripple of long-term residual effects that will be felt by generations. These acts create the conditions that undermine the principles of religious liberty. And DeVos is forcing taxpayers to be complicit in her crusade to fund discrimination through these voucher schemes.”

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.