Before heading to Palm Beach for a weekend vacation at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump was met with boos and middle fingers in Pine Hills last 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 are under attack from the new administration. A handful of Trump supporters were also there to greet him. Law enforcement officials created a barrier between protesters and the president's motorcade as it drove by.
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. During his speech to Congress last 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, according to a White House press pool report.
"You bet," DeVos responded.
After booing 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."