It’s Getting Hard to Stay Civil… HR 610 and the threat to schools

Well, it seems like the new administration is wasting no time in the quest to dismantle public education. Are you ready to step up and defend it?

House Bill 610 (HR 610) or the Choices in Education Act of 2017, in its own words:

This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states… [which] (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

The bill [also] repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)

This month-old bill will soon appear in front of the House of Representatives for comment. If you believe in a truly public education for all students, call your policymaker to say NO today.

Why is HR610 so dangerous? In short, it limits federal education spending only to states who agree to comply with privatize school voucher programs. Voucher programs — special rules allowing some students to attend private school at the public’s expense — do not work. After years of real-world testing, there is not one shred of substantial evidence that they make a sustainable impact for the vast majority of students, and in fact leave most kids behind. They help maintain school segregation, discriminate against students with disabilities, and do essentially nothing to improve education opportunities for the vast majority of America’s students. In short, they’re a tactic to divert public money to already-wealthy private organizations.

Public schools must take all comers — including children with disabilities, those who are poor, and those who are more difficult to educate — because federal law requires that they not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Voucher programs, on the other hand, attempt to skirt anti-discrimination laws and principles by alleging that so-called private schools are not subject to federal anti-discrimination laws, even though they take public money.
— ACLU, A War Worth Fighting

By limiting the Department of Education’s authority to provide funding only to voucher states, HR610 and its supporters are declaring war on the idea of a truly open and equitable public education system.

What this bill proposes to do to the Department of Education echoes the current administration’s stated desires to limit the powers and reach of the federal government and “give more power to the states.” Anyone with even a limited understanding of American history knows the danger that lies in such a position. It is well known that the federal government has had to step in to ensure the civil rights of women and minorities, which were subject to the whims of racist, sexist and classist state policies. The DOE plays a strong part in advancing equity for all students and sets standards for non-discriminatory practice. As one of its core functions, the department reinforces legislation that protects the civil rights of all students — particularly minority, low-income, and those from traditionally marginalized groups — so they can go to a decent school and learn in peace.

Federal oversight and reinforcement of state educational practices and policies led to the (legal) desegregation of schools, prohibition of gender discrimination in institutions from kindergarten to college, the provision of special protections for students with disabilities, and court oversight of school districts not living up to these promises made to America’s children. Proposing to repeal ESEA and Title 1, and limit a federal agency to enforce accountability for school access, equity and excellence, puts all the gains won for students over the last 50 years at risk.

Equitable public education is an essential pillar of a democracy and it is our responsibility to make sure everyone has access. If we’re about what we say this country is about, we cannot ignore, privatize, sell or outsource this responsibility. HR 610 threatens the role that public education plays in holding up this country by defunding the work, spending much-needed public money on demonstrably ineffective methods, and undermining policies that protect students.

None of us can afford to keep up the barriers for students to fully participate in this country. Take a strong stand for public education, equity and access. Call your representatives and tell them to vote “NO!” on HR 610.

Louisiana Congressional Delegation (District 1 & 2) :

Steve Scalise (Rep.), District 1

Washington, D.C. Office: 2338 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-3015

For contact information for your representative’s other offices please click here.

Cedric Richmond (Dem.), District 2

Washington, D.C. Office: 420 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-6636

For contact information for your representative’s other offices, please click here.

For the contact information of Members of the House of Representatives for Louisiana districts 3-6, please click here: http://ziplook.house.gov/htbin/findrep?ZIP=70119

Read more about HR 610 here:

Read more about ESEA here:

Read more about school vouchers here:

Read more about the Department of Education here:

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