Many education advocates have expressed concern about a federal bill, H.R. 610, that would implement a nationwide voucher system and repeal nutrition standards for school lunches. However, NEA leadership is recommending our members not give undue attention to the bill, but remain vigilant about the threats that a Trump/DeVos administration mean for public schools nationwide.
NEA legislative analysts and lobbyists believe that H.R. 610, introduced in January by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), has no momentum behind it and is not a real threat to advance. They are recommending our members avoid giving the bill or its author undue attention – instead keeping our collective attention focused on far greater threats.
In short, H.R. 610 would:
- Repeal the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law now being implemented by states.
- Develop a block grant program that would distribute funds to parents for education, regardless of where the child is educated (homeschool, private school, or public school). The bill also requires states to comply with the voucher system and have state laws that allow parents to use funds wherever they chose.
- Repeal child nutrition standards that were passed as part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.
While nothing is certain in these unusual times, NEA believes that given the overwhelming bipartisan support for ESSA when it passed in 2015 and the continued implementation process well underway, there is no interest on the Hill to reopen the law, let alone repeal it. After one month, this bill has just three cosponsors. In addition, Rep. King is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the House, with little track record of advancing education bills.
That is not to say vouchers are not a threat. While H.R. 610 will likely not be the vehicle, we do anticipate vouchers, tuition tax credits, and other destabilizing proposals to be introduced, and the Trump Administration continues to promote these initiatives. NEA experts believe that the budget reconciliation process and appropriations bills (later this year) are where this fight will play out most heavily.
If you want to fight against vouchers, tuition tax credits and related schemes, join this anti-voucher letter-writing campaign to elected officials in Washington D.C. to let lawmakers know we want fully funded public schools, not choice schemes that divert billions of public money to private and for-profit schools.