Legislative Items of Note

One bill is in Congress and one is in the Legislature.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have put forth HR 610 would approve a couple of huge things.

One, it would authorize Congress to fund block grants for states to use for vouchers.

Folks, Milwaukee has had vouchers for decades but are their academic outcomes improved? No.  Ed reformers like Betsy DevVos and DFER like to make it sound like "choice" is the solution for better academic outcomes. It isn't and they have no proof that it is.

We should be asking Congress to only approve bills that will drive for better outcomes, not just for more choice.

I'll just note that pastors in Texas are leading the way in their state against vouchers.  Interesting.

Second, at the very end of this bill, we find this (from PBS):

House Republicans on Wednesday weighed legislation that could lower the number of students receiving free and reduced-price meals at school.
Legislation debated by the House Education and Workforce Committee aims to save money by scaling back the number of schools in which all students receive free or reduced meals. It would also help schools that say the Obama administration’s healthier meal rules are too restrictive and not appealing enough to students.

A proposed Republican amendment to the bill would go even further, allowing a trial period of so-called block grants for school meals in three states. That would mean those states wouldn’t receive unlimited federal dollars for students who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunches.

Hunger and nutrition advocates from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Heart Association have sharply criticized the legislation.
I'm not sure how much draconian they could get except if they just ended the program.  The amendment is titled, "No Hungry Kids Act."  Someone has a sense of irony.

The House Education and Workforce Committee is to vote on this on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd.

The other legislation is in Washington State and is none other than the levy cliff bill.  Just yesterday, Governor Inslee, in Olympia meeting with superintendents including Superintendent Nyland, pushed for legislators in the Senate to pass this bill. 
School districts face a reduction in the amount they can collect through local levies starting next year, but a measure that has already passed the House pushes that deadline off until 2019. That bill has stalled in the Republican-led Senate, which instead chose to include the delay within their overall education proposal that passed out of the Senate earlier this month. But because the proposal includes several issues still being negotiated between both chambers, it's unlikely that that will pass any time soon, which is why Democrats say the levy fix is needed first as school districts start planning their individual budgets.

"This is an unnecessary burden on educators that they don't need and there's no reason for it," Inslee said.
The four superintendents from Seattle, Lake Washington, Sunnyside and Federal Way School districts said their districts would take a combined hit of $66 million if the bill doesn't pass — ranging from $2 million in the Sunnyside district to $30 million in Seattle.
While timing for each district varies, Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland said that his district will have to send out budget notices next Tuesday notifying schools about potential staffing allocations.
The Republicans keep saying this:
Republicans have argued that by passing the levy fix bill separate from an overall plan, it removes the pressure from lawmakers to finish the overall plan.
To which I say that it would take about 30 minutes of discussion and 60 seconds of voting to get the levy cliff bill done so districts - throughout the state - could get this monkey off their backs. It will NOT delay any other bill and that's just a tired excuse from a group who has delayed and delayed this process.


Anonymous said…
Melissa, I keep seeing the advice to contact representatives about House Bill 610. It's like we don't have enough things to worry about. 610 is a bill introduced by one Republican congressman, it has no cosponsors and it hasn't moved out of committee since it was introduced a month ago. GovTrack puts its chance of passing at 1%. You can find the bill here: <a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr610>https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr610</a>. In this day and age, we are implored to contact our representatives every day about something. I think you can put this boogeyman to bed-- we don't need to worry about it and we don't need to contact our representatives. Let's be thoughtful with our time and energy and urge people to contact legislators about bills that have more of a chance. I, myself, am fatigued from the constant churn of calls to action.
I agree and that's why I didn't add a call to action. I'm just trying to keep this stuff on people's radar because the voucher issue is not going away easily.

Ever vigilant.
Anonymous said…
Melissa wrote:
"Folks, Milwaukee has had vouchers for decades but are their academic outcomes improved? No."

Yet there is some research that shows modest improved outcomes in Milwaukee with vouchers.


"At the request of the State of Wisconsin, we led a five-year study of school choice in Milwaukee that ended last February. We found that school choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes."

OPINION - published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on January 17, 2013
Milwaukee school choice beats the alternative
By Patrick J. Wolf and John F. Witte

-- Dan Dempsey

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
Anonymous said…
It should be noted that a lot of school research is bunk.

The above linked article is authored by
Patrick J. Wolf, a professor and 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice at the University of Arkansas. John F. Witte, professor emeritus of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The article also emphasizes cost of schooling and the Waltons provide a lot of funding to school choice proponents. I still think that the research methods employed by Wolf & Witte are likely to be valid but buyer beware.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said…
Melissa wrote:
"Ed reformers like Betsy DevVos and DFER like to make it sound like "choice" is the solution for better academic outcomes. It isn't and they have no proof that it is."

That blanket statement about "choice" and "outcomes" can certainly be disputed.

Arizona has had a large improvement in NAEP scores in recent years that accompanied the rise of school choice options. There was no large increase in school funding during this time frame 2007-2015.

Matt Ladner has frequently pointed out, in the real “Wild West” of Arizona, charter schools are knocking the socks off their district counterparts and showing greater improvement than any state average on the NAEP. See 2015 graph HERE

Looking at the all school averages on the NAEP for AZ over time.
In 2005, 2007, 2009 AZ 4th graders in math trailed national avg. by 8 points
2013 trailed by 1 and 2015 trailed by 2 points. (+6)

In 2005, 2007, 2009 AZ 8th graders in math trailed national avg. by 4 points
2013 trailed by 4 and
2015 exceeded State avg. by 2 points. (+6)

In 2005, 2007, 2009 AZ 4th graders in reading trailed national avg. by 10 points
2013 trailed by 8 and
2015 trailed State avg. by 6 points. (+4)

In 2005, 2007, 2009 AZ 8th graders in reading trailed national avg. by 5 points
2013 trailed by 6 and
2015 trailed State avg. by 1 point. (+4)

value in ( ) is AZ change vs national average for 2015 score when compared to the 2005, 2007, 2009 average.

AZ NAEP scores have risen at grades 4 and 8 in both Math and Reading.
Increased school choice is likely the significant variable during this time.

-- Dan Dempsey

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