Home > Uncategorized > Good News from DC: A Bipartisan Rejection of DeVos’ Vouchers

Good News from DC: A Bipartisan Rejection of DeVos’ Vouchers

Three media outlets this afternoon reported that the House and Senate, while dedicating more money to education in general, have categorically rejected all of Secretary DeVos’ and President Trump’s plans for vouchers. Here’s the blow-by-blow overview from Politico, with my remarks in bold red italics:

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE $1.3 TRILLION SPENDING BILL: Congressional negotiations finally yielded a proposed spending deal late Wednesday that would boost Education Department funding by $3.9 billion and dole out increases for other domestic programs tied to education. The list of winning programs is long – and if Congress can pass the roughly 2,232-page bill by midnight Friday, it will also avert its third shutdown in as many months. This double boost is a VERY positive sign! The increases for “other domestic programs tied to education” MIGHT be a sign that both parties are beginning to realize that the problems faced by schools must be addressed in the context of the larger problems children face outside of school. 

– “After almost a decade of virtually stagnant federal funding for education, Congress has produced a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package that provides real increases for education,” the Committee for Education Funding said in a statement.

– Notable K-12 increases: The deal includes $1.1 billion – a $700 million boost – for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants,

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE $1.3 TRILLION SPENDING BILL: Congressional negotiations finally yielded a proposed spending deal late Wednesday that would boost Education Department funding by $3.9 billion and dole out increases for other domestic programs tied to education. The list of winning programs is long – and if Congress can pass the roughly 2,232-page bill by midnight Friday, it will also avert its third shutdown in as many months.

– “After almost a decade of virtually stagnant federal funding for education, Congress has produced a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package that provides real increases for education,” the Committee for Education Funding said in a statement.

– Notable K-12 increases: The deal includes $1.1 billion – a $700 million boost – for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which can be used for school counseling and mental health services, technology investments and STEM education. Both Title I funding for poor students and special education grants – the two largest sources of federal K-12 funding – would see increases. Federal funding for after-school programs would get a small $20 million boost, bringing total funding up to $1.2 billion. And the bill would maintain $2.1 billion in grants for teachers’ professional development and class-size reduction efforts. WOW! This is ALL good! 

– The STOP School Violence Act, which would repurpose a Justice Department program aimed at reducing school violence, hitched a ride on the spending package. The bill, H.R. 4909 (115) , would fund training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety to the tune of $75 million annually – including paying for physical improvements such as metal detectors, stronger locks and emergency notification technologies. Lawmakers also plan to funnel $47 million to programs within the Education Department and the Health and Human Services Department that address youth mental health, as well as social and emotional learning in schools. This will give the legislators a fig leaf to sho that they “heard” the youth marchers… but it appears that most of the $$$ is going to “hardening” initiatives… and $75,000,000 for that long list of initiatives is a drop in the bucket… as is the $47,000,000 in redirected funds. 

Historically black colleges and universities would get millions more, including a $35 million, 14 percent boost to a program meant to help the schools strengthen their physical plants, financial management, academic resources and endowment-building capacity. Are you kidding me??? $35,000,000 will MAYBE pay for one or two new dorms at one HBC… compare this to the endowment of any Ivy League school and you will see how embarrassingly skimpy this is! 

– Other winners includeHead Start, federal Impact Aid, Pell grant recipients, STEM education and rural schools.

But for those of us who have been appalled at the direction Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, and yes, the “reformers” are attempting to steer public education, the best news is what WASN’T funded! Here’s more from Politico:

– One of the biggest losers appeared to be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Lawmakers interfered with her plans to overhaul how the Education Department collects federal student loans, blocking an effort to go to a new system that contracts out individual loan servicing tasks to different companies. They also pushed back against DeVos’ efforts to dismantle her agency’s central budget office, stopping the department from decentralizing some functions of the budget office. More on that from Michael Stratford here– So the efforts to hand off collections to private firms who would ruthlessly dun borrowers who are unable to pay looks to be DOA as is Ms. DeVos effort to disable the budget controls… 

Also losing out were most of DeVos’ school choice proposals, which got scant traction from lawmakers. The only exception: Charter schools got a $58 million boost, bringing the total funding to $400 million. Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal called for $500 million for charter schools. It also proposed a new $250 million private school choice program, which was not funded. And it sought to use $1 billion in Title I funding for poor students to encourage public school choice, which was not included. Bottom line: vouchers are DOA as well! 

The omnibus also would send an additional $8.5 million to the Education Department’s civil rights office, which DeVos has sought to downsize. Appropriators said the money should go toward staffing up the office, from which the administration wanted to cut 46 positions. Appropriators also directed the department to maintain its 12 regional civil rights offices, turning back its proposal to reduce the number to four, according to reorganization plan obtained by POLITICO. A department spokeswoman told the New York Times this week that the plan had been abandoned. I don’t know what the Democrats gave away to get this (assuming they bargained hard for this result)… but this will take the Civil Rights Office off life support in terms of staffing… though I doubt seriously that Ms. DeVos or Mr. Trump will be expediting the posting and filling of these jobs! 

Both the Daily Beast and Salon reported on these funding increases and strategic setbacks with a certain degree of glee. The Daily Beasts article titled Education Secretary DeVos’ Agnda Rejected in Budget Bill recounts the same set of facts in broad strokes, and Charlie May’s Salon article had a subheading that read: “In a rebuff of the Education Department’s leader, Congress’ spending bill diverged from DeVos’ privatized dreams”.

As one who unalterably opposes vouchers, I am heartened that there appears to be no heart in either party to move away from the current governance structure of public education which, despite its flaws, is far superior and far more equitable than any plan that commodifies schools. We have enough evidence that markets work best for the wealthy and hardly work at all for those in poverty. Public education remains the best means for individuals to get out of poverty… and converting schools into fast food-like chains will not increase opportunities no matter what free market thinkers choose to believe.

 

 

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