Friday, March 10, 2017

HB 610: The Good Old Days Are Here Again?

HB 610: The Good Old Days Are Here Again?

Or The Fleecing of Public Schools.


By Jill Jenkins
My first day of school in 1959 wearing a dress my mother made me accompanied by my older brother John.

Nostalgia is fun sometimes remembering how wonderful life was in the 1950's and 1960's. I started school in 1959 wearing a dress made by my mother and carrying a brown paper bag filled with three waxed bags: one containing a tuna fish sandwich, one containing a handful of Clover Club Potato Chips, and one containing three Oreo cookies. I was lucky. Not everyone in my school had breakfast before school; not everyone ate anything for lunch; and not everyone in my school looked forward to a warm meal when their father came home from work.  Many of the legislatures and the president believe that returning to the good old days is the right thing to do. They are thinking of the lucky ones, but do their plans help those less fortunate?

HB 610 would destroy much of the progress that the war on poverty legislation passed during Lyndon Johnson's presidency made in 1965.  Despite, Bill O'Reilly statement that poverty hasn't really changed since 1965 despite the trillions spent according to the article,"Bill O'Reilly says poverty hasn't budged since 1965 despite 'trillions' spent" in PolitiFact., the facts show a different story.   According to Pew Research considerably fewer people live below the poverty level than did in 1965, especially in the deep South.  The chart below:
This graph shows that significant gains have been made.  The 1950's and 1960's might have been alluring for those who were White, male, and rich, but for the poor, Black, Hispanic or female, there were few opportunities.  My brother-in-law, Aaron Lobato, tells the story of his father, Silas Lobato, bringing Louis Armstrong home to dinner, because Louis Armstong who was performing at the Hotel Utah walked into his barber shop looking for a barber who would cut the hair of a Black man.  After Silas cut his hair, Louis inquired where he might find a restaurant that served Black men, so Silas brought him home.  Even though, Louis Armstrong was a successful and famous musician during that time, he was treated like a second class citizen: able to entertain the White audiences of the Hotel Utah, but unable to eat or get his hair cut there.  This is unbelievable today. Not only was their a greater level of prejudice, but there was a difference in the quality of education available for those with less means. There is a direct connect between the quality of education and the amount of education a person receives and the persons' ability to break out of the poverty cycle.  Helping people break the cycle of poverty improves the lives of everyone as more people earn more money, pay more taxes and have fewer reasons to participate in crime as a means of support. Nevertheless, the President and the legislature want to return us to these less accepting and uplifting times.

My brother-in-law Aaron Lobato.

First, many low income children depend on free or reduced lunches everyday.  If these children are not fed, they can not perform at their highest levels in school.  This proposed legislation would abolish funding of federally funded "No Hungry Kids Act" and do away with nutrition guidelines for cafeterias. This would significantly diminish the opportunities for success for these hungry students.  Eliminating the nutrition rules for school cafeterias means school might have the option of selling foods and beverages that benefit the school financially but not the nutritional needs of the students. I have worked in schools that placed soda machines throughout the schools to increase sales and received kick backs from the beverage distribution companies.  When schools are allowed to receive "kick-backs" from beverage companies, students begin to drink an abnormal amount of sugary beverages.  The schools make a profit to pay for activities, but the students' behavior becomes outrageous, and their ability to concentrate reduced.  No one wins. 
My step-son Braden sitting before a collection of pies.  If there are no rules for the cafeteria, why not.
Second, this legislation eliminates ESL classes, AP classes, honors classes.  Students who do not speak English as their native language have little opportunity assimilate successfully into our society without ESL classes.  Placing students who have little or no language skills in class filled with English speaking students frustrates that students and slows the progress of the other students when the teacher is pulled aside to assist that student with no or limited English skills.  Everyone loses.   The quality of their education is significantly hampered.  I know Trump believes he is going to send everyone back to Mexico, but our population is diverse.  Many schools have students who speak 17-20 different languages.  The population in the United States is much more diverse than it was after World War II so returning to classrooms of that era is counterproductive.  Meeting the needs of all students is important, not just those who are average.  Students who are intellectually gifted, those who have learning disabilities, and those who have language barriers all have differing educational needs, but all of their needs should be addressed.

My grandchildren, Elias and Isaac and my sister grandchildren, Damion and Natasha

Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Education Act also required schools to provide quality instruction, curriculum, accountability and educational opportunities for educators to improve their skills.  All of that seems like a logical, but all of this disappears in HB 610.  Perhaps the legislatures are unaware  that quality instruction by well prepared teachers increases the likelihood that children will have an effective educational experience or perhaps they don't care.

What does this bill offer us?  State Block Grants to be used as vouchers.  Essentially, this bill would replace public schools with a publicized program of education with no accountability or quality requirements. They are hoping their rich friends who start "for profit schools" can become richer from the public school coffers like they did from the "for profit" colleges that sent millions into debt for sub-quality educations like those at Trump University. This isn't back to the "good old days,"  but for whom? No, the students. This is moving tax dollars from the education of the poor, the intellectually handicapped, and those with language barriers into the pockets of the greedy businessmen. Some want to use these vouchers to provide tax dollars to those who wish to homeschool their children, because they feel their children should not be exposed to the immoral attitudes in public schools.  Isn't stealing funding from poor children a greater moral issue?  Making money while depleting the schools ability to provide for the poor, the handicapped and the gifted is like hawk devouring carrion on the highway is not the answer. This is opening the door for shysters to devour the educational funds by providing low quality education and leaving all of those students most difficult to teach in the dust.  That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up a program of free, public schools.
My daughter, Jeanette and her friend, Carly graduating from 8th grade.

Either states are going to be buried in debt trying to pay for the programs that the federal government is dumping on them, or students who do not speak English, who have a learning or a behavioral disability, or those who are intellectually gifted will all suffer.  Students from low-income families who come to school hungry will stay hungry and poor.  The American tax-payer will be fleeced by the Trump Elementary and High School Program and the affluent homeschoolers.  Call your congressman before it is too late.  The good old day are coming again!