H.R. 610 — also known as the "Choices in Education Act of 2017" — is a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives in January, and it aims to make some pretty big changes to education. Many may have heard a bit about H.R. 610 through social media, but might not be entirely sure of what the bill aims to accomplish. For those who want the nitty-gritty details, there are five things you need to know about H.R. 610.
H.R. 610 may just be a single piece of legislation, but Iowa Rep. Steve King has loaded quite a few goals into it. It's sure to receive support from school choice advocates like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who believes parents should have more control over their children's education and states should have more decision-making power. However, it's also drawn strong criticism from others, who are afraid of the effects the bill could have on low-income families and the public school system.
If passed, the bill would make sweeping changes to the education system in the United States, affecting everything from federal funding to school lunch nutrition guidelines, so all parents and educators should be aware of the bill's contents.
It Would Repeal The Elementary & Secondary Education Act
First of all, H.R. 610 would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the ESEA was a "civil rights law" that guaranteed "equal opportunity for all students." It gave low-income districts new grants, and offered up federal grants for textbooks and library books and funding for special education centers. It also provided scholarships for low-income college students. The ESEA was reauthorized by President Obama in 2015.
It Would Limit The U.S. Department Of Education's Authority
Second, H.R. 610 would limit the U.S. Department of Education's authority, stripping the department's powers down to simply awarding block grants to qualified states. Currently, the department doles out federal assistance to schools, administers federal student aid, and makes sure nationwide education laws are met. The U.S. Department of Education also collects data on student outcomes and works against discrimination in schools.
It Would Institute A Voucher Program
Those block grants would go to individual states, which would then distribute funds among local educational agencies based on the number of eligible kids in each agency's geographical area. Each agency would then have to distribute some of those funds to parents who would like to homeschool their children or enroll their kids in private schools.
This is pretty much how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos envisions "school choice" happening in the United States.
States Would Need To Meet Grant Guidelines For Funding
In order to receive federal grants, states would need to "comply with education voucher program requirements," according to the bill. They would have to allow parents to enroll their children in whatever public or private school they wish, or to homeschool them, if that's what they'd like.
It Would Get Rid Of School Lunch Nutrition Standards
One of the oddest add-ons to H.R. 610 is the "No Hungry Kids Act," in which the bill would repeal nutrition standards established for national school breakfast and lunch programs. Specifically, it would eliminate standards that mandate that schools supply kids with whole grains, provide more fruits and vegetables, and stick to caloric ranges and sodium and fat limits.
If any of the points involved in H.R. 610 concern you, you can call or email your representative and let your opinion be heard. You can also share information with others, since, after all, an education bill like H.R. 610 would affect parents, educators, and students across the nation.