Say NO to Eliminating Federal Funding for Public Education and Nutritious School Lunches
Are you tired and annoyed by everyone posting political rants? Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. So, I hesitate to post. You know me, I’m very non-confrontational. God forbid I should post something provocative or polarizing. Here’s the thing. I’m just a fair-minded, run-of-the-mill feminist and democrat who has never been politically active.
Not a day goes by without some news item causing me to exclaim WTF in anger or disgust or cry in despair. I mean, really, what kind of world is it going to be in 10 years for our children and grandchildren?
Let’s be real, I work full time, I have a husband and children, I teach yoga. I am busy. I am not saving the world. What can I do? Does it even make a difference? After the initial shock, where we all shared outraged articles and felt overwhelmed, I took a bit of a deep breath and a bit of a break. I am not someone who jumps into the fray. No no. I need to research every issue and understand all points of view. Then pause and reflect. Then articulate my point of view, in writing. Then assess how I want to move forward. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, especially when every day presents you with a dozen new outrageous items to consider.
I’ve joined my local Indivisible group. I participate in some closed facebook groups. I read a lot and listen to a lot of political podcasts. I didn’t need a new activity, but there you have it. Our country is too important. Our democracy is too important. Our children are too important. Hell, the Earth is too important. I think we have no choice. To put your head in the sand and pretend that everything is going to be okay is immoral. There. I said it. I.M.M.O.R.A.L.
So, I’ve been sending postcards to my congresspeople. I try for one a day, but have not been successful. I get nervous on the phone, so the postcard thing works better for me. I am skeptical of petitions, so I tend not to sign them. So as not to annoy my friends, (I told you I was non-confrontational), I limit myself to no more than one post a day. I imagine that when I post a political pov, a contingent of my friends rolls their eyes and moves on. But, I don’t know, maybe not. Maybe there’s a quiet group out there that appreciates that I put myself out there.
Yesterday, one of those quiet friends quietly asked me what I knew about HR 610. Nothing. I knew nothing. So, I researched it. Yowza. Here goes my limited interpretation of this brief, but devastating bill:
HR 610, the “Choices in Education Act of 2017,” is a bill under consideration in the House of Representatives that proposes “to distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.”
- HR 610 will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which is the most far-reaching piece of federal legislation affecting education. It is responsible for ensuring that our public school system is fair, providing funding for low-income students, special education, English as a second language, and much more.
- HR 610 limits the authority of the Department of Education, such that federal funding would be in the form of block grants to qualifying states. In other words, federal funding of public schools will now be transferred to the states. So, if you’re lucky to live in a progressive and affluent state, all good, probably. But if not, your education system will suffer. So will your children. So will your property value.
- States, theoretically, will use these funds to create a voucher system for eligible families and schools. In other words, a family could use the voucher to buy a place in a private school.
- But, more likely, the effect of vouchers could result in a middle class student migrating from a public school to a private school. It does not typically benefit a low-income student.
- HR 610 repeals the No Kids Hungry Act, the requirement that school lunches meet specific nutrition standards.
- Say what?! Let that sink in a moment. This bill says school lunches don’t need to be healthy. Um, that might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard, at least today. What does anyone have against nutrition for children? For some kids, school lunch is the most healthy food they eat all day. A well-fed child is better able to learn. A well-fed child is healthier and less likely to need medical care, which low-income families will be less able to afford under the new American Health Care Act, if approved.
See what I mean? It’s exhausting. Just a tiny little bill is fraught with complexity. But this one…well, it seems awful to me. So I am sending my congressman a postcard. I hope it helps.
About two years ago, as part of my MSW, I did a study on vouchers in Louisiana. I went back to Milton Friedman’s 1955 article which introduces the concept. To me, he laid out an excellent argument for vouchers. He called for vouchers for every child. His policy was based on what was going on in the UK where they had (and still have) an inclusive voucher-like system. Parents may send their children to the local government school, a parochial school or may apply for what equates to be a charter / private school. Fee paying schools are also available. None of the voucher systems tried, thus far, in America follow Friedman’s inclusive proposal. HR 610 appears to be in the Friedman vein. I have Friedman’s article electronically if you would like a copy of it. It’s beautifully written.
As a parent of a 10th grader, HR 610 looks very good to me. The choices for secondary school in my area of Jefferson/Orleans parish are terrible. I wouldn’t send my dog to any of the local public schools here. We’ve tried to build up the public schools since 1965 and there’s been no success, here, even after all the fanfare following Hurricane Katrina.
Weren’t you educated privately? Maybe not, but Virginia has a better public school system than poor old Louisiana.
My thinking is that we’ve tried fixing the public schools here in Southern Louisiana. Maybe trying Milton Friedman’s idea would be a step in the right direction.
As for the No Hungry Kids Act, I saw so much food wasted when working in the public schools – both breakfasts and lunches. Unopened packets thrown in the garbage can 180 days a year. Money that could have been used for teacher’s salaries and music, art and a full time librarian was wasted. Perhaps parents should be responsible for feeding their children lunch.
Finally, I’ve met many a person educated before 1965, black and white, who has stated unequivocally that the public schools were better before forced integration. (One lady of color pointed out that 1965 brought on “segregation” rather than “desegregation”.) It gives one pause for reflection.
From what I know, I support HR 610.
Thanks Amy for your thought-full response. Your point of view from Louisiana is interesting and understandably different from mine. I did go to public school in VA and my children have attended public school in NY. I suppose there is a scenario where a voucher system could work if it were all-inclusive. I would be interested in MF’s article. It is not clear to me that a well-thought-out voucher system has been articulated. So sad about school lunches. They should be a benefit and I believe they are, but I agree food waste is shameful.
You change the world with every breath, every day. I am sure of that. As for vouchers/charter, I do not believe anything but a well funded public system will work for all children. The “playing field” is already so uneven as illustrated by Amy’s post. I too am an MSW approaching my 31st anniversary, and for the first time am experiencing the huge deficits in a “good” private Episcopal school here in Southern Ohio. All my kids have been public educated until last fall when we moved and our last entered private. And yes, Amy, parents should provide their kids all meals, but some kids wouldn’t eat if they didn’t come to school, especially in the cities, regardless of public or private designation. There are ways to more carefully be stewards of the resources the schools are allocated, and that are made available to the kids and staff. Waste is everywhere. We all can do better. Sally’s public post card campaign is a great way to raise our voice for change. We can’t do it without the other; carry on as you see the need in your home community. As Michael Moore has been saying repeatedly, run for office, get involved. And we will see change, or perhaps at least a more informed, intelligent, and realistic conversation.
Emily and Amy let me introduce you. Long-time dear friends who are PASSIONATE. What attracts me to you is your willingness to be who you are, to be outspoken about what you care about, to do and say what you believe is right. I love you.