Archive for June, 2019

School is Out, but Legislation Is Still In

Monday, June 24th, 2019
Parkland, Florida student activists register to vote

Parkland, Florida student activists register to vote

June is time for school graduation. Think about the artists, scientists, doctors, legislators, presidents and people from all walks of life who contribute to our society and were proud graduates of public schools.

First, after all the fuss about graduates getting into prestigious colleges by faking scores on SAT or paying off officials, you should know that studies admit that scores on SAT/ACT indicate a student’s family wealth. If your family makes under $80,000 a year, it’s likely that your scores will be lower, and the gap has increased from 2012-2016. Only changes in government policy that attempt to increase minimum wage and improve community resources have bearing on helping students get better exam scores.

What is happening in legislation to improve the lot of the country’s future graduates?

On June 4, 2019, the American Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) passed in the House of Representatives. It will provide a path to citizenship for 2.7 million students. In addition, the Temporary Protected Status will allow 37,000 teachers to remain in the country. However, we wait for the Senate to do its duty.

Finally, on June 19, 2019, the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education funding bill (HR2740) passed in the House. It increases overall funding investment for schools by $4.4 billion in FY2020. Title I and IDEA will increase by $1 billion; Title II (class size and professional development) by $500 million; Pell ad other student financial aid by $492 million; $40 million increase to “community schools,” helping students in low-income communities to improve and do better on scores to graduate to colleges of their choice. Again, we hold our breath for the Senate to do its duty.

For local legislation, Chicago’s new mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed an interim seven-member school board. They will work only until a legislation change in the state law allows election of school board members by the public.

What else to improve the future for grads?

To make legislation move forward the country needs legislators that are willing to make laws. Registering more voters will help. That’s why California that allows pre-registration at 16 with help from the League of Women Voters is initiating a 2020 project to register and pre-register all high school students to vote as soon as they are eighteen. Did you know that fourteen states allow students to pre-register when they are sixteen in order to be prepared to vote when they are eighteen? Four states allow pre-registration when students reach seventeen? Students who are now 17 and 1/2 will be able to vote in the November general election. League of Women Voters is a national organization and can register high school students in all those states. In Santa Clara County California, and many other California counties, the League is working with all high schools to register and pre-register students. The time is now to work on legislation to allow pre-registration in the 32 mid-west and southern states.

Although not all newly registered voters will be concerned about schools, they will know that their vote is their voice. What an excellent graduation gift.