President Donald Trump will visit a private, religious school in Florida on Friday, the White House said.
The president will tour St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, where he is expected to drop in on classrooms, and meet with parents, teachers and administrators.
He will spend the weekend at his Florida estate, Mar-a-lago, according to the Miami Herald.This will be the president's first visit to a school since becoming president. Critics say President Trump disfavors public education and wants to privatize education in the U.S.
During a speech to Congress this week, Trump called education "the civil rights issue of our time" and asked legislators to pass a bill that would fund school choice for disadvantaged youth, including minority children.
School choice refers to offering education based on choice rather than location. In the U.S., most neighborhoods are designed around the location of their public elementary, middle and high schools.
Denisha Merriweather, who used Florida's school voucher program to attend a private high school that she credits with turning her life around, was a featured guest at Trump's address to the joint session of Congress this week.
Many of St. Andrew's students attend the school using the same voucher program as Merriweather, said White House spokesman Ninio Fetalvo.
Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who was traveling with the president, is a proponent of charter schools, school choice and vouchers.
Teachers unions strongly opposed her nomination, fearing that she intends to defund public schools.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said earlier this week that education is "a top priority" for the president.
"He has said many times before that education has the ability to level the playing field for the next generation," Spicer said, adding that Trump "is determined to provide choice for every parent and opportunities for every child, regardless of their ZIP code."
St. Andrew Catholic School is a private institution that teaches 350 children from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. The school defines its mission as "developing the students' spirituality and creativity in order to be disciples of Christ in the 21st century."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that by visiting a private, Catholic school, Trump continues an "ideological crusade" and advances "criticizing, undermining and proposing the defunding of public schools and instead trumpeting private alternatives."
Weingarten said that in many cases, voucher programs -- publicly funded scholarships given to low-income families to help them cover private school tuition -- have not improved children's academic outcomes. She added that voucher programs are often not transparent in how they spend public dollars and in what the kids are taught.
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