Sen Tuberville says ‘Trump understands’ school choice will be a ‘focal point’ of 2024 election

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FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has been in talks with former President Trump about the issue of school choice and parental rights, he told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday night. 

Tuberville said the former president ‘understands’ how big of an issue school choice for parents will be in this year’s presidential election as public schools continue to ‘fail’ students, despite the U.S. spending more money per student than most countries in the world.

‘I’ve talked to President Trump about it, and I think it should be a big focal point in the election,’ Tuberville said.

‘He knows it, and that it’ll be a big factor,’ he continued. ‘And I think parents resonate with that. The last thing I told the parents was: Voices need to be heard. And this needs to be spread, it can’t be a dozen parents, and it’s got to be parents all over the country.’

Tuberville, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, hosted a roundtable Wednesday afternoon with GOP Sens. Katie Britt of Alabama, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Ted Budd of North Carolina and Eric Schmitt of Missouri, along with a dozen parents from across the country.

Topics like ethnic studies and critical race theory (CRT), boys and girls sports, and how test scores have plummeted after the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed during the roundtable that also marked National School Choice Week.

School choice, which provides all families with alternatives to the public schools for which they’re zoned, can be expanded through multiple avenues at the state level, including school voucher programs, tax-credit scholarship programs, individual tuition tax credit programs and deductions, and education savings accounts. These programs can be limited to certain households based on an income threshold or other factors, or they can be expanded universally to all children.

Tuberville said that despite significant federal funding for public schools, it ‘goes into buildings and teachers’ unions’ but not into ‘the minds of the students.’ According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2019-2020 school year, the U.S. spent $870 billion on public elementary and secondary schools.

‘Basically, this is about parents in charge of their kids,’ Tuberville said. ‘We’re not teaching reading, science and history as much as we should be. They’re more concerned about a social justice agenda in the school.’

One of the attendees, Sonja Shaw, the president of Chino Valley Unified School Board in Southern California and a mother of three, agreed that school choice will be a big ballot issue for parents casting a vote this year.

‘I do because CRT is still a huge issue, and this ties into CRT, it’s just packaged differently,’ Shaw told Fox News Digital. ‘I think the more awareness that we bring, it’s going to bring light, and then just like you’ve seen with parental rights, I just think it’s a matter of parents exposing it.’

California became a battleground state for parental rights and school choice issues in local politics last year. Shaw said this is because California is the blue ‘pilot’ for what other state school programs will inevitably follow. 

‘Whatever’s in California, they’re going to put it everywhere else, it’s just a matter of time,’ she said. 

One of the biggest issues that swept several school boards across the Golden State last year was the parental notification policy that requires schools to disclose to parents if their child identifies as transgender. Shaw’s district was one of the few to implement the policy, and they received backlash from the governor’s office for it.

Following Chino Valley’s adoption of the policy, California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an investigation into the district for ‘potential legal violations.’ Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom also threatened to sue another Southern California school district for refusing to teach a social studies course that included controversial gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

However, it’s not just California in the education fight. Dozens of bills have been introduced in other states — including Arizona, Indiana, Arkansas and others — to establish stronger parental rights policies in public schools.

Popularity for school choice is also on the rise. According to ACE Scholarships, a nonprofit committed to helping parents access better education options for their school-age children through private school partnerships, a record 14,090 scholarships were awarded to K-12 children across the country through its program for the 2023-2024 school year.

Recently, Republican governors made significant inroads in pushing universal school choice legislation, which did not exist anywhere in the country a few years ago.

Nine states have enacted universal school choice, with state Republicans leading the effort.

Trump routinely touted school choice during his presidency, once calling it the civil rights issue of ‘all-time in this country,’ and he signed an executive order on Expanding Educational Opportunity Through School Choice toward the end of his term.

Fox News Digital reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie and Joshua Q. Nelson contributed to this report.

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