Many people in America are unhappy with the direction that public education has taken over the last two decades. As one of these Americans, I knew that education would take a nose dive with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education earlier this year.
I did not, however, think that the first education bill under President Agent Orange would be this insidious.
First introduced in late January by Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, House Bill 610, tentatively titled “Choices in Education Act of 2017,” comes straight out of a Ronald Reagan dream world. In short, it effectively begins the process of defunding public schools completely.
To start, the bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the most far-reaching education act ever passed by Congress. ESEA funds primary and secondary schools and emphasizes equal access and opportunity among historically underrepresented and disadvantaged groups such as racial minorities and children with disabilities, among others.
The bill would also repeal a specific rule that establishes certain nutritional requirements for school breakfast and lunch. This ignores the simple fact that hungry kids cannot learn. Taking basic nutritional requirements out of school breakfast and lunch does little for their overall well-being, much less to create a better school environment.
If the two previous sections of this bill weren’t bad enough, part three is even worse. The bill would create a school voucher program that would allow parents to take public school funds to provide private school tuition to their students. Under the bill, parents would also have the choice to use the voucher to provide homeschooling.
The bill would limit the authority of the Department of Education to distribute grants to state governments. Under HR 610, the DOE would only be authorized to distribute grants to qualifying states. These states would have to agree to all terms of the voucher system to qualify.
To be blunt, I am sickened by the thought of this bill passing. Let me be clear: I have no problem with private or parochial schools, nor do I have an issue with homeschooling.
I am, however, wholeheartedly against the idea that it is okay to strip funding from already struggling public schools to give students and parents “choice” in where they attend school.
The idea of school choice, especially as it relates to driving competition, made no sense whatsoever. The idea that taking money from public schools will somehow make them better or push them to become better as a means of retaining students is not only implausible but simply a stupid assertion to make.
Neither our public schools nor our students can compete academically with other global leaders if we take away basic necessities like nutritional lunches and proper funding. Until we as a nation realize that, we will continue the downward spiral we have been in for decades.