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Readout of the White House Conference Call with African American Leaders on School Choice Now with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Tim Scott

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, alongside Sen. Tim Scott and members of the White House Domestic Policy Council, participated in a call with African American leaders this week on the importance of education freedom and how the "School Choice Now Act" could expand educational options and opportunities for African American students.

"African Americans, and all Americans, need more opportunities to grow, to develop, and to prosper, and that all starts with a great education. President Trump and I are fighting every day for more options for every student and every family across America," Secretary DeVos told participants. "Under the President's leadership, we've lit a prairie fire across America for parental school choice. Countless surveys show that more families today support parental choice than ever before. Notably, a very recent RealClear Opinion survey found that 73% of African American families want their education dollars to follow their children to wherever they go to learn. Three out of four families with children in public schools want the same thing."

Sen. Tim Scott thanked Secretary DeVos for her leadership on school choice initiatives and for her support of the "School Choice Now Act" which was included in the most recent Senate COVID-19 relief package. Sen. Scott called the issue of school choice "personal," noting that he grew up in a single-parent home below the poverty line with limited access to a quality education.     

"The commitment to education is not a political one," Sen. Scott said. "The commitment to education is to ensure that the American dream is alive even for the poorest Americans."

The call engaged a broad audience of African American community leaders and school choice advocates from across the country to discuss the importance of school choice in the African American community, especially for low income families.

Below are highlights from speakers:

Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President and Acting Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Brooke Rollins moderated the call and introduced Secretary DeVos after brief remarks highlighting the President's commitment to advancing school choice.

"This President will fight to his last breath for Americans, especially those who need it the most," Rollins said. "Our forgotten children need school choice… Nothing is more important for the future of this country than a world class education."

Ja'Ron Smith, Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the White House Office of American Innovation

In his brief remarks, Deputy Assistant to the President Ja'Ron Smith thanked Secretary DeVos and Sen. Scott for their leadership on school choice, he noted, "The White House has always been focused on a holistic approach to elevating communities. We know that school choice is a national issue but it really affects local communities."

John DeBerry Jr., state representative, Tennessee

Tennessee state Rep. John DeBerry Jr., called school choice "one of the most important civil rights issues of our time," while adding that "education is key to equality."

"I had parents call me every day in tears because their children are not getting the attention they need," Rep. DeBerry said. "This should be a nonpartisan issue. What's at stake is the future of our nation, the future of our republic… We have to stop the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline that we see in so many of our communities."

Terris Todd, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Terris Todd, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, praised Secretary DeVos for being "a staunch advocate for school choice," while adding, "This is about students."

"[Secretary DeVos] asks the question ‘What will most benefit students,'" Todd said in brief remarks to the call. "It is all about what's best for the students, for their needs. African Americans can agree that parents have that final decision of what's best for their child… This is what the majority of African Americans want."

Participants from the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Terris Todd

Other Speakers

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

Tennessee State Rep. John DeBerry Jr.

Assistant to the President and Acting Director of the Domestic Policy Council Brooke Rollins

Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the White House Office of American Innovation Ja'Ron Smith

Special Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Partnerships and African American Outreach Nicole A. Frazier

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