I never had any faith that President Donald Trump would be a champion for education. After all, he did pick Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with deep pockets and no education background, to lead the U.S. Department of Education. So as disappointing as it may be, I'm not surprised that Trump has decided to end the "Let Girls Learn" program, one of former First Lady Michelle Obama's key initiatives for children. How did "Let Girls Learn" help kids? It extended educational opportunities to young girls in developing countries.
According to CNN, the Trump administration has discontinued "Let Girls Learn," effective immediately. The news comes a little more than a year after the Peace Corps, which runs the program primarily, announced that "Let Girls Learn" had been extended to 23 new countries. Certain aspects of the inter-governmental initiative will continue, but it will no longer remain a stand-alone program, nor will the "Let Girls Learn" branding continued to be used, according to CNN, which produced a documentary on the program.
Sheila Crowley, the Peace Corps's acting director, wrote in an email to Peace Corps employees, according to CNN,
'Let Girls Learn' provided a platform to showcase Peace Corps' strength in community development, shining a bright light on the work of our Volunteers all over the world. ... We are so proud of what 'Let Girls Learn' accomplished and we have all of you to thank for this success.
Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama launched "Let Girls Learn" in March 2015 as a way to break through the physical, cultural, and financial barriers girls around the world face in accessing education. According to the "Let Girls Learn" website, the initiative used "a holistic approach" to improve existing education programs and invest in news ones that allowed girls to receive the education and resources they need to thrive. The U.S. Agency for International Development, one of the program's partner agencies, estimates that 62 million girls around the globe are currently not in school.
In October, the former first lady announced that her initiative received more than $5 million in new private sector pledges to advance "Let Girls Learn" curricula. According to CNN, that brought the total amount of financial commitments to more than $1 billion put toward "Let Girls Learn" programs in 50 countries.
"Let Girls Learn" isn't the only initiative launched by Michelle Obama that the Trump administration has attacked. The White House has also undone the former first lady's healthy school lunch program. Schools will now have more flexibility in having to meet food standards set forth by the lunch initiative, according to The Hill. Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released an interim final rule that postpones further sodium reductions for at least three years and allows schools to occasionally serve 1-percent flavored milk and non-whole grain rich products.
In response to the news, people including celebrities have taken first daughter Ivanka Trump to task for her father's decisions — and rightfully so. Ivanka Trump has not only positioned herself as a champion of women and girls, she has also recently defended her father's record on women's rights. But with each day that Trump is in office, the first family shows that it couldn't care less about extending opportunity to anyone who is not in their circle of influence.
It would be interesting to hear what Ivanka Trump has to say about this latest move, if she says anything at all. Either way, though, cutting the "Let Girls Learn" program is indefensible.