The following article was co-written by Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow Debbie Hickerson. She is a fifth grade teacher at Cason Lane Academy in Murfreesboro, TN.
Keep your eye on what is being proposed at the federal government for our public school system. Have no illusions. The school voucher system will gut public school funding across the country. A voucher does not provide enough money for full tuition. Those who want to use vouchers to put their children in private school will need to supplement the tuition cost out of pocket. This means those in poverty and the working poor will not be able to access private schools. That leaves those in the public school system who cannot afford private school. Public schools will lose a majority of their funding to the vouchers, leaving underfunded public schools with a high proportion of children in poverty. Statistically, high poverty schools don’t do well on standardized tests. Universally low test scores, because of the vouchers, will feed into the false narrative that public schools are failing the students that they serve. This is not equitable education for all. Don't we want ALL of our children in America to have a good education?
To those of you not in the education field, you may not understand that having a school voucher system doesn't just mean you can choose any school you want your kid to go to. It also means the public education program will be dismantled. Let me explain.
House Resolution 610, introduced by Rep. Steve King of Iowa (yes, the same person who tweeted something so racist that people cancelled their vacations to Iowa), will effectively start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5-17 and starts the defunding process of public schools. It will eliminate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which is the nation's educational law that provides equal opportunity in education. The ESEA established what are known as title programs and, because these are so important to maintaining free and equitable public education, Congress has reauthorized ESEA every five years since 1965. Under President George W. Bush, ESEA became known as No Child Left Behind; under President Barack Obama, it was rebranded the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and passed Congress with rare bipartisan support.
ESSA is a comprehensive law that covers programs for struggling learners, advanced and gifted kids in AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities, rural education, education for the homeless, school safety (Gun-Free schools), monitoring and compliance, and federal accountability programs. Yes, there are all of these programs happening in our education system, in addition to academics, and they will disappear if this bill becomes law. Some things ESSA does for children with disabilities include ensuring access to the general education curriculum, and accommodations on assessments. It also requires local education agencies (i.e. the school systems) to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently under-performing subgroups.
House Resolution 610 also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. It dangerously has no wording whatsoever protecting kids with special needs, no mention of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) nor the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) act.
Please call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Resolution 610. If you don’t know who your house representative is, go to http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep and type in your zip code. Please call all local offices and the D.C. office. E-mails are okay, too, but phone calls are much more effective and really will not take much of your time at all.