Former president Donald Trump on Monday slammed the “insane” US education system and vowed to bring back “common sense” schooling as part of his “America First” campaign platform, touching on a hot-button issue that is expected to dominate next year’s election.
Speaking to potential voters in Iowa, he hit on what has increasingly become a cultural flashpoint in the United States, with Republicans taking every opportunity they get to assail Democrats over what they see as the encroachment of “wokeness” into teaching.
“We have to get back to common sense, and that is reading, writing, arithmetic,” Trump told the crowd in Davenport, in response to an audience question about schools becoming “indoctrination camps” that are “focused on sexualizing our children.”
“What they’re teaching in schools today is insane,” said the 76-year-old Republican, who is running for president again after failing to win a second term in 2020.
Trump had previewed his education policy blueprint in January, calling for federal funding cuts to programs teaching children “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content.”
On Monday night, he also promised to champion school choice, the right of parents to elect principals, and state — rather than federal — control over curriculums.
“School choice is where it’s at,” Trump said, referring to a movement that seeks to use tax credits and vouchers to allow parents to opt out of the public school system in favor of privately managed charter schools.
“As president I’ll fight to expand that right to every single state in America,” he said.
And he repeated a previous pledge to “keep men out of women’s sports” — a reference to Republican efforts to ban transgender women and girls from sports teams that match their gender identity.
– Shifting polls –
Iowa tends to be deluged by candidates in presidential election cycles as it hosts the first nominating contest for Republicans, and remains high in the Democratic calendar after being knocked from top spot.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — Trump’s chief potential rival for the Republican nod and a major critic of progressive messaging in classrooms — himself stopped by the Hawkeye State on Friday.
Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, the only high-profile Republican Trump rival to have officially declared her candidacy, also campaigned in the largely rural Midwestern state last week.
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll out on Friday showed Trump still holding significant sway in Iowa, although his favorability rating among self-identified Republicans has fallen from 91 percent in September 2021 to 80 percent.
DeSantis was close behind, with 74 percent of self-identified Republicans having a favorable opinion of him.
And the share of Republicans who said they’d “definitely vote” for Trump if he were the party’s 2024 presidential nominee dropped from 69 percent in June 2021 to 47 percent now.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Rhyan Lake has previously accused Trump’s support for school choice as being an effort to gut public education while pushing to move billions of dollars towards private schools.
“Everyone will see right through Donald Trump’s desperate spin about his own record as the GOP field races to out-MAGA each other at the expense of America’s kids,” Lake said in a statement.