During Donald Trump's State of the Union address last week, Donald Trump condemned "failing government schools" -- a phrase generally used by opponents of public education -- and highlighted a fourth-grade student in Philadelphia named Janiyah Davis.
The president used Davis and her family as an example of the kind of folks who deserve a taxpayer-funded voucher to pay private-school tuition:
"Janiyah's mom, Stephanie, is a single parent. She would do anything to give her daughter a better future. But last year, that future was put further out of reach when Pennsylvania's governor vetoed legislation to expand school choice to 50,000 children."Janiyah and Stephanie are in the Gallery. Stephanie, thank you so much for being here with your beautiful daughter. Thank you very much. But, Janiyah, I have some good news for you, because I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over. I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available, it's going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice."
Trump proceeded to call on Congress to use federal funds to subsidize private-school tuition, apparently as part of a broader effort to privatize, at least in part, American K-12 education.
At face value, the obvious question raised by the president's speech is why he's so eager to privatize schools instead of helping some of the public schools he considers "failing." Public schools already receive very little federal funding -- they generally rely on local property taxes and state resources -- but if Trump is prepared to invest billions of dollars in federal aid into education, maybe some of the struggling schools would be in far better shape, instead of boosting private schools that are already doing well.
But as it turns out, a related question soon emerged about the Republican's case study. The Philadelphia Inquirer took a closer look:
President Donald Trump turned a Philadelphia fourth grader into a poster child for the school-choice movement Tuesday when he told the nation that thousands of students were "trapped in failing government schools" and announced that the girl was at last getting a scholarship to attend the school of her choice.But Janiyah Davis already attends one of the city's most sought-after charter schools, The Inquirer has learned. In September, months before she was an honored guest at Trump's State of the Union address, she entered Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III.
Oh. So Trump was delighted to announce that Janiyah Davis' family would receive a voucher so that she could attend a good school, but in reality, the Philadelphia fourth-grader is already going to a good school -- which receives public funding, and which doesn't charge anything in tuition.
The Inquirer article added, "How she landed in the audience during Trump's prime-time speech Tuesday remains a bit of a mystery even to Janiyah's mother, Stephanie Davis."
The girl's mother added that she doesn't see her daughter's current school as one "you want to get out of at all." Davis added, "I view it as a great opportunity."
Why is Trump an unreliable narrator to his own presidency? Because so little of what he says should be taken at face value.