You might not have heard of Republican Rep. Steve King from Iowa before this week, but you're going to want to remember his name now. (And that was before all this "someone else's babies" nonsense.) King is the man behind the dangerous new bill introduced into Congress, House Bill 610, which touches on the divisive school voucher debate and what schools are serving kids for lunch. While King might not be the only Republican representative behind H.R. 610, he's the driving force pushing it forward.
King introduced the education bill into Congress in January under newly-minted education secretary Betsy DeVos; the bill carries with it the power to potentially defund the public education system in favor of school vouchers, among other things. Michigan billionaire DeVos has long been a passionate advocate in favor of the school voucher system, and H.R. 610 looks towards establishing such a voucher program, "through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA's geographical area." The bill explains,
From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.
The bill, also called the Choices in Education Act of 2017, would also repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was introduced to provide equal opportunity education for children during President Lyndon Johnson's "War On Poverty." ESEA has, for years, been providing federal funding for school programs to assist students who struggle with developmental learning disabilities, poverty, need to learn English as a second language, and have mobility problems.
Finally, Rep. King's bill also seeks to abolish the No Hungry Kids Act of 2012. This bill provided integral federal funding for in-school breakfast and lunch programs, and also established nutrition guidelines for schools.
So, who exactly are the men behind a bill that actually wants to get rid of the No Hungry Kids Act?
Rep. Steve King
King has long been a vocal critic of the No Hungry Kids Act; In 2015 he sent out a press release accusing first lady Michelle Obama (who heartily supported the bill) of putting "all kids on a diet," and wanted to get rid of the calorie limit the USDA had put on lunches served in schools. Rep. King released a statement about his controversial bill which read in part:
As the spouse of a former Iowa teacher, I understand that it’s the right thing for our children to take education decisions out of the hands of the federal government, and back into the rightful hands of parents who know how best to meet the educational needs of own children. The Choices in Education Act does so by repealing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and therefore, limiting the authority of the Secretary of Education. This bill will ensure that the Secretary is properly making payments to the States regarding voucher programs and that the States are complying with school choice requirements.
To contact Rep. King with your thoughts on H.R. 610, click here.
Rep. Andy Harris
Republican Rep. Andy Harris from Maryland was the first co-sponsor of H.R. 610. Harris, a retired physician, has yet to speak publicly about his co-sponsorship of H.R. 610, though The Baltimore Sun published a scathing editorial accusing the congressman of turning his back on childhood hunger. You can contact Rep. Harris here.
Rep. Trent Franks
Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks is the final cosponsor of H.R. 610 (Texas Rep. Pete Olson withdrew his sponsorship on Mar. 9). Rep. Franks has been the only member of Congress sponsoring this bill to respond to critics thus far; When advocates for homeschooling parents contacted him with their concerns about H.R. 610 and the effect it may have on homeschooled students, Franks responded with this statement:
I understand the concerns of the homeschool community. My support for the bill only extends to vouchers for public school and private school students. If this bill moves forward, I would request that any language that would impose vouchers upon homeschools is taken out.
Perhaps contacting Rep. Franks here might provide an open doorway to stopping H.R. 610 and protecting the public school system, equal opportunity education, and the health of students everywhere.
Whatever you do, though, act now. H.R. 610 might not make it far, but then, isn't that what we all thought about President Trump, too?