WASHINGTON D.C. -- While outlining his education platform during his speech to the U.S. Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump mentioned the story of University of South Florida student Denisha Merriweather.
Merriweather, a native of Jacksonville, was an invited guest to the speech because of her successful application of Florida's tax-credit scholarship program. Merriweather, who failed third grade twice, was able to use the tax-credit funds to enroll in a private school to later graduate from high school and attend college.
She has received her undergrad degree from the University of West Florida and will graduate with her Master's degree from USF this spring, the Washington Post reported.
President Trump asked Congress to pass an education bill to provide expanded school choices for students and parents, be it private or public. His campaign promise to spend $20 billion on private school vouchers could be achieved if Congress enacted a plan similar to Florida's tax-credit scholarship program, the Post reported.
Florida's tax-credit scholarship, which has been in effect since 2001, allows corporations to donate money to a private school voucher fund benefiting private, charter and religious schools.
Critics of this program say that tax-credit scholarships divert funds that should go to struggling public schools to private schools which are not held to the same accountability standards.
Merriweather wrote a 2015 column which appeared in the Tampa Tribune saying that she is "living proof" that this program works to help low-income students make the best choice for their education.
She told her story in a video produced by the charter school lobbying organization, American Federation for Children.