Republicans introduce bill to replace 1965 legislation that guarantees free and equitable public education for all with a national voucher program intended to kill public education as we know it

On January 23rd of this year, two weeks before billionaire turned anti-public education crusader Betsy DeVos was sworn in as Secretary of Education, Congressman Steve King of Iowa introduced HR 610, a bill which, if passed into law, would replace Lyndon Johnson’s landmark 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with something that King and other Republicans are referring to as the School Choice Act. Before we get into what the School Choice Act would do, here, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is some background concerning what would be lost with the elimination of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which has, for the past half century, guaranteed the right to free and equitable public education across the United States. Following are just a few of the things that President Johnson’s historic legislation, first passed as part of his “war on poverty,” provided for.

…Title I, part A supports schools and districts serving a high poverty population. These dollars pay for support to help children meet challenging academic standards, in reading and math intervention classes or after-school homework help, for example.

Title II provides grants to states to support the training, recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers and principals.

Title III focuses on helping schools ensure that English learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and meet the same challenging state standards as all students.

Title IV funds block grants for enrichment learning like STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programs and technology integration.

Title V supports school reform efforts.

Titles VI and VII pay for programs supporting Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education.

Title VIII provides funding for educating homeless children…

And, as the Minneapolis Start Tribune op-ed points out, “HR 610 would repeal all of these regulations and programs by eliminating the ESEA to create block grants used to ‘distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child.'”

And, yes, you read that right. HR 610 would eliminate these title initiatives, redirecting federal funds instead to individual states in the form of block grants to be distributed via school voucher programs to families that choose not to send their children to their local public schools. So, whereas in the past, those who chose to send their children to private schools still contributed toward the operation of their local public schools through their tax dollars, that would no longer be the case under the School Choice Act. If King’s legislation should pass, those who, for instance, choose to send their children to private religious schools, would essentially get that money returned to them that would have otherwise gone toward supporting public education.

Speaking of religious schools, did you happen to see this footage shot back in October of Trump visiting a religious school in Nevada where children “pledge allegiance” not to the United States of America, but to “the Bible”? Should this bill pass, schools like this would be federally funded with our tax dollars, as would schools, like we discussed a few weeks ago, that teach the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs coexisted with human beings.

Trump, for what it’s worth, mentioned this school last Tuesday, when he and Betsy DeVos met with parents and teachers to discuss their education agenda. [The group was comprised mostly of charter school parents, homeschoolers and representatives from private schools.] “During the meeting,” according to an article published by the Network for Public Education, “Trump praised what he referred to as a ‘Nevada charter school’ that he had visited.” He neglected to mention, however, that the school in question, among other things, doesn’t accept students with disabilities. [Speaking of which, the Department of Education under Trump also removed the web page where, under previous administrations, people could learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – legislation which ensures students with disabilities are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).]

Oh, and HR 610 doesn’t just kill the public education protections we’ve enjoyed for the past half century, like those for disabled students, and funnel money away from public schools, but it also, if you can believe it, repeals a specified rule that established nutrition standards for U.S. school lunch and breakfast programs. That’s right, it wasn’t enough to just launch a voucher program that would lead to the dismantling of public education as we know it… they also took the opportunity to kill the law that said schools had to provide fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals for disadvantaged students.

This is what we’re up against, folks.

If you’ve never picked up the phone before and called your member of Congress, now, I think, may be a pretty good time to start… especially if your member of Congress happens to sit on the Education & Workforce Committee, where HR 610 currently resides… We couldn’t stop DeVos, but maybe we can stop this bill in Committee, before it can get to the House floor for a vote.

For those of you who, like me, live in Michigan, we have three Representatives on the Committee – Tim Walberg (District 7), Mike Bishop (District 8) and Paul Mitchell (District 10) – and I imagine all of them would love to hear from you about HR 610. So let’s make some calls, OK? [If you follow those links, you’ll find their phone numbers. And, if your Representative isn’t one of these three, you can find his or her number here.]

Make no mistake, their objective is to privatize K-12 education in America, killing the teachers unions, ending public education as we know it, and removing all safeguards that have been put in place to protect our most vulnerable children.

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  1. Morbid Larson
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    God’s work will be done. The unborn will be saved by feeding children MdDonald’s happy meals for lunch.

  2. Jcp2
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I think that in this case, free and equitable hasn’t always meant good, sometimes means adequate, and occasionally means plain terrible.

  3. Posted February 22, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Jcp2, you’ll get no argument from me. Even with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 , there are huge disparities. And those disparities need to be aggressively addressed. That doesn’t mean, however, that the whole thing should be scrapped in favor of privatization across the board, which is what the School Choice Act.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    DeVos wants to replace the secular school with the church at the center of the community. The Republicans want to kill the teachers unions. Both get a little closer to their goal with every public school that closes. Working together they will destroy public education.

  5. Cassandra
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Not only will destroying public education yield enormous profits – it will also weaken democracy, citizenship, civil society … and reduce the chances of future dissent.

    Basically, this is a plutocrats’ wet dream.

  6. Mika Yamamoto
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I called all of them at 9am. Got through immediately and took 5 min.

  7. Jcp2
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    As I may have mentioned in another thread, I grew up in Canada, and in my city one had, and still has, the choice of directing school taxes towards the public school board or to the Catholic school board. It didn’t mean that the school one went to led to scientific ignorance. That’s more a reflection of the family, and no school system can help with that.

  8. X
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    All Republican legislators are in hiding right now.

    See Dave Trott.

  9. John Galt
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    God disabled those children for a reason. Who are we to question his judgement?

  10. Maria Goodrich
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    This would be disaster for schools in Ypsilanti in a whole host of ways, not least being the degree to which current federal funding helps make up some of the gap in per-student spending between us and more wealthy districts like Ann Arbor.

  11. Posted February 22, 2017 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    A few weeks ago, I worried about eventually having two tiers of adults: people who learned science in school and people who learned that Moses and Jesus and the sun god rode a dinosaur to the Ark. That worry now seems silly and trite. We will have people who know nothing, not even rudimentary basics.

    We will return to a time I can’t even imagine. I LOVE history (esp. local history!) but I have to admit that there were a lot of uneducated people. Not necessarily around here, but nationwide. People with disabilities were sort of hidden at home/on the farm and certainly never went to school. If the public schools are just closed (as, uh, they are being closed in Detroit), what happens? Are we going to return to literally having street urchins roaming around?

  12. Tommy
    Posted February 23, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    This is the same Steve King of Iowa who said “cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end”.

  13. Lynne
    Posted February 23, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Of course not, Patti. Being a street urchin will be illegal so those kids will be behind walls, in prison (which costs more than school but never mind that)

  14. Juliana
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Here is an easy way to send a letter to your representative about HR 610. Please share!

  15. Joel Dennis
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Who is the Minneapolis Start Tribune? It is the Minneapolis Star Tribune!
    Very radical! Looks like they are trying to kick education to the state level. Scorched Earth policy for education. Not a good idea!

  16. Jenn
    Posted March 7, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Of course this turned into a religious shananigan. The school visited was a religious private school, so if they want to pledge to the bible by all means they can have at it. Also, my children go to a title1 public school, who are by ESEA standards, one of the schools protected under the school act of 1965. Yes they allow children with disability into our school system but only if its to benefit them. Take insulin dependent children for one. Diabetes is a fatal disease that has to be monitored 24/7. Its a disability millions of children suffer with, yet, does not fit under this protection. Therefore, parents are forced to homeschool their children and pay for the expenses. I dont see what is so wrong about some of the block grant going to parents who have to do this or choose to take their children from schools where crime is so prominent to homeschooling them or sending them to a private school for an education. Nevertheless, its ok when parents pay for their childs private or homeschooling program out of pocket yet still have to pay taxes to public school systems but now that some money from public schools will be split to help parents who may struggle its a whole different matter. Our country is in diar need of less greedy ppl who only want the best for our children rather than focusong on others religious fews as a way of boosting their own agenda!

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