Archive for April, 2017

Backing Away: the President’s Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

A notice in the NEA Education Insider, April 9, 2017, reminds teachers that the President’s budget proposal  drops the “U.S. Department of Education funding by $9 billion or nearly 14 percent. The Trump/DeVos agenda calls for voucher schemes that provide billions of dollars for private schools while slashing funding for afterschool programs in public schools, Pell Grants, teacher professional development, and class size reduction.” In addition, such a budget would cut federal food programs for children and health care initiatives that keep children ready for school.

So to go along, three House of Representatives Republicans introduced bill HR 610 on January 23, 2017. It will begin the de-funding process of public schools and effectively start a school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17.

The bill will do just what the president’s budget requests – revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which is the nation’s educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. Compare the budget proposal above with the comprehensive program that covers needs for struggling learners, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs. The bill would also abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

Moreover, to support Pell Grant defunding, on Tuesday, April 11, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and cabinet member of the current administration, withdrew an Obama administration Education Department policy that requires taking into account the past practices of college loan servicing companies before awarding contracts. It seems that Ms. DeVos is aiding the lenders to make money. There is abundant evidence that the industry doesn’t serve the college graduates and American families trying to get ahead. Rather Americans are burdened by unfair loan practices.

What’s the purpose? School “choice.”

Backing away from support for 86% of American children in public schools is to ensure money for school “choice,” especially with vouchers. Betsy DeVos has been looking at models to provide vouchers like the tax-credit model in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program which has been in effect since 2002. The program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers. For example, a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero. Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools, and could benefit from these vouchers. But, the voucher model also reduces state revenues by $50,000 from one corporate taxpayer (in the example), thus eliminating funding that could be used for the almost 3 million Florida public school students.

The research on improvement in student achievement by using vouchers to attend a recommended private or parochial school is not absolute, some school moves help, others don’t. However, The New York Times article by Dana Goldstein, April 12, 2017, “The Hidden Costs in Special Education School Vouchers” does expose features of vouchers that often don’t show better results. Parents must understand all the specifics of the voucher applied for. The protections for special education students from the 1975 federal civil rights law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be waived once a scholarship voucher is accepted, as in the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida and, at least, seven other states.

On top of that problem, two assistants have been hired to the USDOE. The president hired Carlos G. Muñiz as general counsel to the Education Department. He is perhaps best known for representing Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a student who accused the former star quarterback James Winston of raping her in 2012.

Ms. DeVos hired Candice E. Jackson, to be the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. She represented one of the women who attended a news conference before a presidential debate in October to impugn Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of sexual assault victims.

Title IX civil rights must be overseen for students of all ages, pre-K through college – the people for whom the President often reminds us he wants to assure a place in a great America – and then backs away from funding public schools and hires people to back his vision.

Take Care Schools urges you to call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610).