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Trump: Promoting Patriotism, Choice, While (Maybe) Scrapping the Ed. Dept.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told an American Legion convention Thursday that he wants school children to regularly say the Pledge of Allegiance and learn "patriotism."

Trump told the veteran's group that he wanted to promote "American pride and patriotism in America's schools," according to ABC news. "We want young Americans to recite the Pledge of Allegiance."

The line is being reported as a dig at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, whose name didn't come up in the speech, recently declined to say the pledge at a game last month because he doesn't think the United States treats people of color fairly.

But high school kids have launched similar protests. For instance, in the wake of courts' decisions not to prosecute the white police officers who had been involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men—Eric Garner and Michael Brown—students across the country took issue with the pledge, particularly the last line referring to "freedom and justice for all."

In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that kids can't be forced to say the pledge in school. But as my colleague, Maddy Will, reports, some students claimed on social media that they were reprimanded by their teachers for refusing to say the pledge. And Missouri just increased the "opportunities" schools must give for students to recite the pledge from weekly to each school day.

School Choice and Immigration

This isn't Trump's only mention of schools in the last few days. He used a speech on immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night to plug school choice, saying that, "for the money we are going to spend on illegal immigration over the next 10 years, we could provide 1 million at-risk students with a school voucher." Trump said that undocumented immigrants cost the country $113 billion, a figure he Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for electionslug_2016_126x126.jpggot from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to cut on illegal immigration, according to the Washington Post.

Trump didn't say exactly how large these vouchers would be or just which "at-risk" students would be eligible, so it's hard to say whether there would enough money for a million of them over 10 years, even if that $113 billion figure is accurate. Still, Trump, who had originally planned to make this "education week" is said to be working on a school choice plan, so maybe this is a part of it? 

What Would Getting Rid of the Education Department Look Like?

Meanwhile, Trump has said he'd like to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, or at least cut it "way, way down."

This would be a really, really hard thing to do, as I explained in this 2010 story. Past attempts to close 400 Maryland Ave. have faltered.

But say Trump is elected and Congress got behind him. What would no more Education Department actually mean when it comes to student loans, teachers, money for English-language learners, and more? The Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is affiliated with the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to Secretary Hillary Clinton, Trump's rival for the White House, did the math.

Before we get into the numbers, it's worth noting that CAP Action's analysis assumes that no other agency would pick up any of the department's functions, and that pieces of the department wouldn't be reformed into a subcabinet level office charged with say, distributing student loans or Title I dollars for disadvantaged kids.

It's not clear if that's what Trump has in mind when he talks about potentially eliminating the department. After all, he's also said that education is one of the federal government's top three functions (more on Trump's education views and how they stack up against Clinton's here.)

Still, if Trump, or anyone else, really did totally eliminate the department and completely got rid of absolutely all of its programs, here's what the impact would be, according to CAP Action:

  • 490,000 teaching positions could be eliminated, which is about 14 percent of public school teachers nationwide;
  • 8 million students annually would lose Pell Grants;
  • 4,000 or more rural school districts would lose money to train teachers and improve student learning; and 
  • Students from military families and those on Native American reservations or living on federal property would lose $1.1 billion annually to make up for lost tax revenue through the Impact Aid program.

Want more? CAP Action has an interactive map, with state-by-state data

Photo: Swikar Patel for Education Week. 

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