Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't miss what's behind the all the Trump noise

I probably don't have to cite all the sturm und drang surrounding all of Trump's tweets, executive orders, disenfranchising speech, attacks on the media, and his general sucking all of the air out of the room of public debate.  But we also can't take our eye off the ball about what the current GOP controlled Congress may be doing behind the curtain of all the noise.  You may already know that The Trump administration repealed an EPA rule requiring coal mining companies to clean up water polluted by mountain top mining, or that it repealed an SEC rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.  Or that it plans to gut EPA rules regulating CO2 emissions.

What you may not yet know about is the introduction of H.R. bill 610, which would repeal a bedrock Federal educational law - the ESEA act of 1965, which among other things, establishes programs for special needs learners, AP classes, ESL classes, funding for low income schools, among other things - and replaces it in its entirety with block grants to states for voucher programs.  Additionally, the bill voids nutritional requirements for meals provided to children in schools.  

Here's the section on repeal of the 1965 ESEA act - the enitre thing is repealed in one sentence:

SEC. 102. Repeal of Elementary and Secondary Education Act and limitation on secretarial authority.
(a) Repeal.—The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.) is repealed.
(b) Limitation on secretarial authority.—The authority of the Secretary under this title is limited to evaluating State applications under section 104 and making payments to States under section 103. The Secretary shall not impose any further requirements on States with respect to elementary and secondary education beyond the requirements of this title.
Next the bill takes whatever funding was allocated under ESEA and block grants it to states for voucher programs.  Any payments not made to states from existing appropriations go to deficit reduction.  Here's the relevant section:

SEC. 103. Block grants to states.
(a) Grants to states.—From amounts appropriated to carry out this title for a fiscal year, the Secretary shall award grants (from allotments made under subsection (b)) to qualified States to enable such States to carry out an education voucher program under section 105.
(d) Deficit reduction.—Any amounts remaining after allotments are made under subsection (c) for a fiscal year shall not be available for any purpose other than deficit reduction.
Section 105 essentially sets up the authority to block grant funds to states.  You can read the text of 105 (and the rest of the bill, it's pretty short) here.

Here's the text voiding nutritional requirements - they actually have the audacity to call it the "No Hungry Kids Act":

SEC. 201. Short title.
This title may be cited as the “No Hungry Kids Act”.
SEC. 202. Repeal of rule.
The rule prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture relating to nutrition standards in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs published on January 26, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 4088 et seq.), and revising parts 210 and 220 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect.
Whatever you think of the efficacy of these programs, a LOT of kids are impacted by and benefit from ESEA, and this is the kind of thing that should be debated in public.   I do have mixed feelings about educational requirments being uniformly imposed by Washington, D.C., but just blindly granting states Federal taxpayer money to do with as they wish - with no minimal requirements, no assurances for special needs children, no provisions for low income families, etc. - seems like poor policy.  Indeed, with 33 Republican governors and 32 state legislatures controlled by Republicans, it's not a stretch to think that a good amount of taxpayer funds will go to subsdize private, for-profit educational institutions, with much less accountability than public ones.

We need to keep our eye on the ball with all of the craziness hitting our public discourse. 

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