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School Vouchers: The Quick & Dirty

It's time to check in with our friend, Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos.

As most of us know, Betsy is a big fan of school vouchers. Recently she met with a group of presidents from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). She then made a statement commending HBCUs for being "real pioneers when it comes to school choice" and for being "living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality." According to Betsy, HBCUs "started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education."

History check: HBCUs began because, thanks to segregation from Jim Crow laws, black students were refused entry into educational institutions. 

WHAT ARE SCHOOL VOUCHERS?

Basically, a school voucher system is one in which low-income households receive government-issued subsidies for private school education. 

CURRENTLY, the education system operates under President Johnson's Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was reauthorized by President Obama as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). Here are a few very important provisions of the ESSA that you've probably heard of:

Title I: Supports schools and districts serving a high poverty population via grants and additional funding to bring students up to grade-level in reading and math, including intervention classes and additional individualized support.

Title II: Provides grants to states to support the training, recruitment, and retention of highly qualified teachers and principals.

Title III: Helps schools ensure than ESL students reach English language proficiency so they can meet state standards.

Title IV: Provides block grant funding for enrichment learning, i.e. STEM-Arts/STEAM.

Title V: Supports research-based school reform efforts to improve both student and teacher performance and development, with an additional special focus on at-risk youth.

Titles VI and VII: Support efforts of and coordinate with tribal schools to meet the unique needs and culturally related academic needs of Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students.

H.R. 610 "Choices in Education Act" by Congressman Steve King (Iowa)

This bill would create block grants for parents to send their children to private schools or to supplement homeschooling. To do so, the bill would first repeal ESSA, including all those lovely provisions listed above. Then, when parents choose to send their child/ren to private schools, the money that would have previously gone to keeping the public school(s) in their area running will be given to the private school. This effectively limits already struggling public schools, especially in low-income areas. Teachers will be out of jobs, and public schools will have to cut even more corners than they are currently doing just to stay afloat. Better teachers will migrate to private schools because funding for their paychecks are being redirected.

You can read the full bill here.

I'd say it's time for Republicans to contribute to addressing issues in public education instead of ripping billions of dollars away from the majority of students in this country.

WHAT CAN I DO?

  1.  Sign this petition against H.R. 610.
  2. Check if your Congressperson serves on the Education and the Workforce House Committee, where the bill sits now, or if they serve on a subcommittee. Then call them! (Phone numbers here).

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