US President Donald Trump has visited a Catholic school in Florida to show his support for school choice.
The president was joined at St Andrew Catholic School in Orlando by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, US Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Governor Rick Scott in a tour of the school that started with a visit to a fourth-grade class.
The visit, which was private, was described as a listening session.
One of the tour guests was Denisha Merriweather, who attended a private high school through Florida’s voucher programme, which she credits with turning her life around.
“We want millions more to have the same chance to achieve the great success that you’re achieving,” Mr Trump said. The president also told school administrators that “the love you have for what you do is really fantastic”, the Associated Press reported.
In his address to Congress last month, Trump said that education was the “civil rights issue of our time” and urged Congress to pass legislation to fund school choice for disadvantaged young people, but he did not offer any details.
St Andrew Catholic School, which opened in 1962, teaches 350 children from pre-K (under five) to eighth grade (aged 13–14). On its website it says: “Our goals are simple: college and heaven.”
The school partners with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, or ACE, which serves under-resourced Catholic schools.
A statement from ACE said the president’s visit gave the St Andrew’s students “a historic opportunity to share their story with the nation”.
“We are acutely aware that the current political climate is among the most polarised in American history,” the statement said. “These divisions have real implications for relationships here in the St Andrew community.”
It also stressed that “every family has the right to choose the best school for their child” and that “because of the parental choice programme in Florida, this school will continue to empower families, form faithful citizens, strengthen the Pine Hills community, and provide children with educational opportunities.”