President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a program aimed at improving Hispanic Americans’ access to education and economic opportunities.

“We will expand our efforts across all of the federal government to create educational and economic opportunity for Hispanic Americans,” Trump said to applause in the Rose Garden, describing the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.

The president said education and school choice are “at the heart of our strategy to bring a prosperous future for every Hispanic American, as well as all Americans.”

“We are a believer in choice. The other folks don’t believe in choice,” Trump said. “Choice is a great civil rights issue, and may be the great one of our times.” 

The executive order boosts the Trump administration’s support for school choice, establishes new career pathways including apprenticeships and work-based learning initiatives. It also directs federal dollars to economically distressed communities,  which includes the administration’s “opportunity zones” program and promoting opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses. 

“I’m going to fight to ensure that every Hispanic American parent has the freedom and the right to send your child to the public, private, charter, faith-based, magnet, home or independent school of your choice,” Trump told an audience of invited business and community leaders of Hispanic descent, adding:

It’s also a moral issue and it really is a fundamental issue of civil rights. No American student should ever be trapped in a failing government school, which has happened so often for so many years. It’s one of the problems you see when you see these cities going up in flames.

The executive order encourages private-sector initiatives and fosters public-private partnerships. It also establishes the President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity, which will identify in-demand jobs for students that include apprenticeships,  internships, and work-based learning opportunities. 

During his administration, Trump said, the Hispanic graduation rate reached an all-time high and the dropout rate fell to an all-time low. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, Hispanic American unemployment was at historic lows and wages were at historic highs. 

“We’re getting back to it very quickly,” Trump said. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also spoke, noting that 80% of Hispanic Americans support school choice. 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said his department looked at all communities that are particularly affected by COVID-19, and how the disease often resulted in rising cases of  hypertension, obesity, asthma, and diabetes.

“Every single person in our society is worth saving,” Carson said. “We only have 330 million people. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a quarter of what China has, a quarter of what India has. And we are going to have to compete with them in the future, so we are going to have to develop all of our people.”

“And your emphasis on education and educational choice will be the thing that really distinguishes and liberates our people,” Carson said. “So thank you, Mr. President.”