Schools at End of 2018

Post by CJN

As of December 22, 2018

As of December 22, 2018

School takes a break for the winter holidays, a time to relax and enjoy time with friends and relations. Except there’s no break from the anxiety for schools produced by the current president and his administration.

On Tuesday, December 18, just before winter break, another change in procedures was dumped on schools. The administration rescinded Obama-era school discipline guidance that aimed to address disproportionately high disciplinary rates for students of color. This decision despite, for example, black students on Long Island are about five times more likely than whites to be suspended from their public schools, according to a report released December 9, 2018, by a coalition of education, civil rights and business groups that finds similar racial disparities across the state. (Schott Foundation for Education newsletter 12/14/18)

On the one hand, the administration claims, with no evidence so far, that districts are pressured to keep dangerous students in school. On the other hand, long time research shows that the numbers of suspensions are a strong factor in dropping out of school. Disproportionate school discipline constitutes discrimination, and the American Association of University Women, for one, urges the administration to reverse this action and instead reaffirm their commitment to supporting equal rights and opportunity for all.

The announcement comes just three days after the Federal Commission on School Safety led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a report detailing recommendations for helping schools become safer. Despite claiming to be responding to school shootings, it is hard to find suggestions in the report that directly address gun violence. It does encourage the improvement of mental health services for students, recommend “character education” programs for students and training school personnel in the use of firearms. (AAUW Washington Update newsletter 12/21/18)

Winter holidays always include lots of time for delicious food. However, families with children will be affected by the government partial shutdown of many agencies and, most important, by the Department of Agriculture (DOA).

Earlier in December Congress passed the farm bill with strong bipartisan support. It protects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest anti-hunger program with 40 million beneficiaries. After strong opposition by the National Education Association (NEA) to provisions of the House version of the bill, the provisions were stripped from the final bill. They would have impacted nutrition benefits for millions of families, undermined access to free school meals, and imposed unnecessary new work requirements. (NEA Education Insider newsletter 12/16/18)

Nevertheless, days after signing the bill, the president along with DOA Secretary Sunny Perdue have found a way around the bill to place more stringent work requirements on adults who rely on SNAP. Supposedly, the rules would apply only to single adults, but there are many who work for schools and who still rely on food assistance.

In addition, Perdue plans to relax the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act school lunch rules implemented in 2010. Three provisions for grains, dairy, and sodium in school lunches are to be revised. Perdue seems most interested in allowing sugary flavored chocolate milk to return to schools.

Improving health by using whole grain rich foods does not mean complaints, according to Ann Cooper, Food Services Director from Boulder Valley Schools, Colorado. Few schools have requested exemptions.

Relaxing restrictions on sodium content in food is not as tricky or as conflict-consuming an issue. Schools will not be required to pursue the correct sodium content as aggressively as in the 2010 rules.

Although 99 percent of schools have reported that they can meet the 2010 rules according to a USDA report in 2016, the School Nutrition Association, advocate for the country’s food companies, love the changes. Not good news for children’s school lunch health.

What do trade tariffs easing and now the shutdown mean for students?

The DOA is not completely shut down. However, according to Senator and Vice Chair Leahy of the Senate Appropriations Committee, with the trade extension, USDA plans to distribute $1.2 billion in commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides supplemental food to soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries. Help is needed to mitigate this influx of commodities, but a shutdown would really hamper this program.  The Food and Nutrition Service would not be able to purchase commodities or provide the funding for transportation, distribution, or storage. This could be especially harmful to food banks that receive these commodities at a time when more families rely on their services – the winter and holiday months.

With that news, happy holidays and, we wish, hope, and call on the administration to see the light by the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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