President Donald Trump’s frequent and lavish vacations have been well documented. He has been away on vacation at his resorts in Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster Township more than 40 percent of the weekends he has been president, asking taxpayers to foot a record-breaking $28.6 million bill.
The job of president is grueling and taking some vacation is understandable. But Trump seems to have two standards for spending taxpayer dollars. When it comes to his own vacations at his family’s properties, money is no object. After all, it’s going back into his family’s own pockets anyway. But when it comes to the nation’s children, his Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney emphasizes that the government needs to eliminate summer enrichment programs for low-income children out of “compassion” for the taxpayer.
The cost of Trump’s budget-busting vacations must be measured not just in dollars but in the lost opportunities for the kids who benefit from these summer enrichment programs. Trump has proposed eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which helps children in high-poverty communities access after-school and summer programs that are critical to closing the achievement gap. In the summer of 2015 alone, 279,314 students across every state participated in summer enrichment programs funded by this grant; that’s more than a quarter of a million children who could lose summer enrichment if Trump’s budget proposal becomes a reality. Yet for what the taxpayers have coughed up for Trump’s vacations in the first six months of his presidency alone, 19,039 children could benefit from high-quality summer enrichment programs.
These cuts would have long-term impacts on children’s educational attainment, as significant shares of participants in 21st Century Learning Centers grants improved in mathematics, English, state assessments, homework completion, and behavior during the 2014-15 school year, according to a U.S. Department of Education report. These programs also help parents work by providing a safe place for kids to learn and play when school is out, and they address summer hunger by providing meals to kids when school lunch and breakfast aren’t available. Secure and well-fed while vacationing at his own resorts, Trump is essentially saying of low-income kids, “Let them eat cake.”
As Trump continues to rack up spending on tax-payer funded vacations to his family’s properties, it is worth remembering that if Trump had his way, hundreds of thousands of low-income kids would lose the support they need to have safe and enriching summers. President Trump will enjoy his summer vacation; the same cannot be said for low-income kids if Trump succeeds in cutting funding for educational programs in their communities.
The number of weekends and cost of Trump’s vacations so far is based on the methodology used at https://istrumpatbedminster.org/, which is based on data from the Government Accountability Office, Judicial Watch, and Bedminster township’s own estimates. The Wallace Foundation estimates that the average cost of a quality summer program for children can range between $1,200 and $1,500 per child. Using the conservative estimate of $1,500, $28.6 million dollars could have provided 19,039 children with quality summer programming.
Melissa Boteach is the vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress.