HB 610 – Deconstructing Schooling

 

We should all be aware that members of the House are moving to pass House Bill 610 (HB 610) which would make some fairly drastic changes to education in America.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610/text

 

Dated January 23, 2017

“Mr. King of Iowa (for himself, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Franks of Arizona) introduced the following Bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.”

They go on to write that this is “a bill to distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in school.”

They give us a new “Title I to be called Choices in Education Act” which does two things:

  1. Repeals The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  2. Limits Secretarial Authority (Secretary of Education)

Here is what Wikipedia tells us about the Education Act of 1965: (note: these links don’t work in this setting)

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed as a part of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s “War on Poverty” and has been the most far-reaching federal legislation affecting education ever passed by the United States Congress.

The act is an extensive statute that funds primary and secondary education.[1] It also emphasizes equal access to education and establishes high standards and accountability.[2]

In addition, the bill aims to shorten the achievement gaps between students by providing each child with fair and equal opportunities to achieve an exceptional education.

As mandated in the act, the funds are authorized for professional development, instructional materials, for resources to support educational programs, and for parental involvement promotion.

{The act was originally authorized through 1965; however, the government has reauthorized the act every five years since its enactment…}

Sections of the original act

  • Title I—Financial Assistance To Local Educational Agencies For The Education Of Children Of Low-Income Families
  • Title II—School Library Resources, Textbooks, and other Instructional Materials
  • Title III—Supplementary Educational Centers and Services
  • Title IV—Educational Research And Training
  • Title V—Grants To Strengthen State Departments Of Education
  • Title VI—General Provisions

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_and_Secondary_Education_Act

 

This bill, HB610 includes only Title I as responsibilities of the Federal government. It also revises Title II.

Title III-VI would no longer be the domain of the Federal Government.

 

Section 103 of HB 610 is entitled Block Grants to States

This is how they intend to do the math. Out of the total budgetary allocation the Secretary of Education’s only job will be to collect total numbers of students to attend public schools, private schools, and home schooling for a school year, do the divisions, and pass out the block grant to the “qualifying” states. This job would also involve enabling “qualified” states to carry out an education voucher program under section 105.

Further subsections of this section include: reallotment and deficit reduction to describe what will be done with the funds from “unqualified” states. (Excuse my sidebar, but, yikes. The bill never gives a really clear definition of a “qualified” state and the Secretary of Education makes the call.

Section 104 of HB 610 is entitled Application and describes the application process of the states, All applications must

  • Comply with the requirements of section 105
  • Make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the States
  • Or to home school their child

State applications must be approved within 3o days of the date when applications are due.

Section 105:  Education Voucher Program Requirements

This section tells the states what children need to be counted.

It also says that it is the “sense of Congress” that States should distribute non-Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in a manner that promotes competition and choice in education.

The next part of section 105 is entitled Identification of Eligible Children; Allocation and Distribution of Funds (with more details on the local responsibilities in this regard and the States responsibilities.)

It further describes how funds will be disbursed to parents of children who choose private schools (tuition, fees and transportation)

To the parents of children who are home schooled (not to exceed the cost of home schooling the child) (Yikes again)

This section (105) goes on to say how money will be distributed by the states to local schools both public and private and to parents who school their children at home.

It allows the local education agency (?) to reserve 1% of the funds allocated for administrative costs.

Payments made to parents will be nontaxable and will not count in determining eligibility for any other Federal program.

Section 106 of the bill gives Definitions.

The bill then addresses Title II of the Education Act entitled NO HUNGRY KIDS ACT

In section 202 entitled Repeal of Rule

“The rule prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture relating to nutrition standards in national school lunches and school breakfast programs published on January 26, 2012 and revising parts 210 and 220 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect. (In other words they wash their hands of Michelle Obama’s attempt to mandate healthier eating practices in schools).

They revert to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 1945, but insert before the semicolon “to establish a calorie maximum for individual school lunches, or to prohibit a child from eating a lunch provided by the child’s parent or legal guardian.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_School_Lunch_Act

 

Well there it is, done and done, a deceptively simple bill that changes schooling in America forever, or at least for the next 4 years (and makes it very hard to change it back to the way it was.)

This is because it reduces the role of the Secretary of Education to that of a bean counter, or in this case, a child counter.

It also gives the Secretary of Education the power to decide if a state qualifies for Federal funds.

Since the idea of qualifying is left relatively undefined it seems that states could be disqualified for ideological reasons at the discretion of almost any branch of government.

Let’s open this up to questions:

  • Can you take a system such as our huge (sorry) national school system and change the way it is funded almost overnight without any serious repercussions? (That is just the first of many question any educator or parent might have about this plan- which has not exactly been opened up to formal discussion in any public forum.)
  • Our schools have ticked along for many years with laws which only tried to modernize them or make them more inclusive. What kind of chaos will such a massive change make in our schools?
  • While our schools still use rows of desks devised for schooling kids in the 19th century people are working on ways to get students moving and perhaps out into work environments as learning laboratories and other creative models that fit better with 21st century society and young people. Some states will probably continue to innovate, but some states want to totally privatize or parent-ize schooling. How will students fare when their parents move across state boundaries? Our states are going to become like independent nations.
  • We just made schools adopt Common Core and, although Republicans now hate Common Core they are the folks who first designed it and advocated for it. Can our schools be jerked around like this during each new administration in Washington and then asked to reinvent themselves every 4 to 8 years? Of course, getting rid of the Federal Department of Education would make this new trend of “change by administration” less likely.
  • The whole area of how states “qualify” for money needs to be much clearer.
  • The entire area of how special needs students will be taken care of in such a system certainly needs to be spelled out.
  • If these changes were to be passed into law shouldn’t there be a step by step plan for implementing the law which does not make the change an abrupt change, but rather, in some way, phases the plan in?
  • Personally, as an educator, I believe this plan has nightmare written all over it. This plan will not provide equal opportunities to American students. It will, instead, destroy an educational system which has worked pretty well for at least a century and a half, and is the envy of all but a few countries around the world.
  • Why should we even bother to pay taxes to the Federal government at all? Let’s figure out what percentage of our taxes goes to education and just pay that portion to the states instead. It’s stupid to give our money to Washington so they can give it back to us (there are also trust issues).
  • I have seen block grant programs before and they work well for a few years and then the funds start looking good to other programs who begin to covet and syphon off the dollars for their own pet projects.

Don’t you have some questions of your own? It would be very good to hear them.

Tomorrow (Sat., 3/4/17) people are demonstrating against HB 610. See if you can find a rally to join if you are so inclined. Or do something on your own.

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