Donald Trump met with boos from protesters as he visits Orlando private school


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
President Donald Trump was met with boos and middle fingers in Pine Hills Friday as he visited a private Catholic school to promote school choice.

About 100 residents and activists with Organize Florida and other progressive organizations stood on Colonial Drive holding up signs and chanting slogans, including, "No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!" While the majority focused on supporting public schools, some protesters were there to defend communities they feel may be under attack from the new administration. Law enforcement officials created a barrier between protesters and the president's motorcade as it drove by to get to the school.

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Kiki Smith didn't have a sign, but she did bring her 1-year-old daughter to the protest.

"I don't want Trump here," she says. "There's people on the sidewalk saying give him a chance. To do what? If you built up your kingdom and you built up your business this much, you're going to hand the keys over to this guy? He has a track record of four bankruptcies. … He's a con artist. He's defrauding all these children."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Trump visited fourth graders at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando along with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House adviser.

St. Andrew Catholic School, which is located in a predominantly African American neighborhood, has low-income students that get tuition assistance from the Florida Tax Credit scholarship program. Businesses get tax breaks for donating money to private organizations that give children scholarships to go to private schools. School-choice advocates say the program allows low-income students who are mainly African-American and Latino to expand their education choices. But critics say the program allows for corporations to funnel state money into private, sometimes religious, schools with the purpose of undermining the public education system.

Before Trump arrived, the roughly 25 students in the fourth-grade class he was about to visit said their goals were "college and heaven," when prompted by their teacher, according to a White House pool report written by Ted Mann, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal.

Trump told the class they were "beautiful" and advised a student who said she wanted to open a business to "make a lot of money, right? But don’t go into politics after." Afterward, Trump held a round table session with Bishop John Noonan, from the Orlando Catholic Diocese; Henry Fortier, the superintendent of Catholic schools in Orlando; John Kirtley, founder of Step Up for Students; and other education officials.

When speaking about the importance of school choice, Fortier said "there's a lot of controversy."

"It's not a situation of us versus them," Fortier said, according to the pool report. "It shouldn't be just for the wealthy who can afford it."

Kirtley said his program, which provides scholarships to students, currently provides tuition assistance for 100,000 children with an average household income of $24,000 a year. During his speech to Congress this week, Trump said education was the civil rights issue of our time.

"Betsy's going to lead the charge, right?" Trump said in Orlando, referring to DeVos.

"You bet," she responded.

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Myalee Cesareo says she was once a student at St. Andrew Catholic School on a scholarship. While she doesn't have an opinion on the state program, she was protesting on Friday to protect "Hispanic, black and Muslim communities."

"I want him to realize he doesn't have the power to divide us," she says. "He doesn't have the power to roll over women. He doesn't have the power to divide this whole country. As people in this country we need to step up and confront him."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
After booing at the president's motorcade, Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, told the crowd the union doesn't want taxpayer money diverted to charter schools that aren't held to the same standards as public schools.

"Trump is here in Orlando, not to lift up public schools," she says. "He is here to push his anti-public school agenda, to tear down public school. He's here today under the guise of giving parents a choice. The only choice he wants is a private school."

Doromal says Trump knows school vouchers are a failure so he wants to repackage them through a tax credit scholarship program like the one in the Sunshine State.

"We've gone through this already in Florida and we won't fall for it again," she says. "Vouchers don't help children. Vouchers increase the cost of education by requiring taxpayers to fund both public and private schools."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Community activist Robin Harris told the crowd Trump's rhetoric has been misleading, but that Pine Hills was not falling for it.

"Your rhetoric about school choice does not have the black and brown student community in mind," she says. "We don't like school choice. We don't need it. We don't want it."

Harris says the Trump administration is not concerned with children of color or transgender children. She adds that while Pine Hills children deserve the best education, voucher programs deprive public schools of their funds.

"We're coming out today to say that we're not having it," she says. "Mr. Trump: You are officially evicted from Pine Hills."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro


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