House Bill 610 to Defund Public Education-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa has introduced H.R. 610 to defund public education.
H.R. 610 would dramatically change how federal education dollars are doled out, and it would lead to less federal funding for public schools by redirecting some funds to private school and home school students.
But the claim that H.R. 610 would completely defund public education isn’t entirely accurate.
Specifically, H.R. 610 would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was passed as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
Congress reauthorized the measure in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act. Before that, it was known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The Department of Education explains that federal block grants supporting school districts in low-income areas have been a primary piece of the legislation over the last 50 years:
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.” From its inception, ESEA was a civil rights law.
ESEA offered new grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for textbooks and library books, funding for special education centers, and scholarships for low-income college students. Additionally, the law provided federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.
Again, H.R. 610 would repeal ESEA and limit the authority of the Department of Education — marking a dramatic shift in how public schools are funded. The Department of Education would only be authorized to administer education funding in federal block grants to states, a portion of which would have to be administered to private and home schooled students, according to the text of the bill:
The bill establishes an education 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. 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.
To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.
Critics of H.R. 610 argue that the bill would have a disproportionately negative impact on public schools in low-income communities because it would repeal ESEA, which has provided a significant source of federal funding to them. The Department of Education reports that more than about 56,000 public schools and 21 million children would be impacted by changes to Title I funding:
ED’s most recent data on participation in the program are from school year (SY) 2009-10. In SY 2009-10 more than 56,000 public schools across the country used Title I funds to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, funds support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.
That same year Title I served more than 21 million children. Of these students, approximately 59 percent were in kindergarten through fifth grade, 21 percent in grades 6-8, 17 percent in grades 9-12, 3 percent in preschool, and less than one percent ungraded.
Supporters of H.R. 610 argue that children from underperforming “Title I” public schools in low-income areas would be able to use a voucher to attend a better private or charter school under H.R. 610.
So, it’s true that H.R. 610 would have a major impact on how federal education funding is doled out, and it would have a more dramatic impact on low-income or “Title I” school districts that received federal grants through ESEA. But the claim that H.R. 610 would defund public education isn’t completely accurate, either. Students would seemingly have less incentive to “opt-out” of better performing public schools, likely leading to minimal impact on those districts. That’s why we’re calling this one “truth” and “fiction.”