Federal school choice bill proposed

In his first presidential address on Feb. 28, President Donald Trump declared that education is the “civil rights issue of our time.” To support that statement, he encouraged Congress to pass a bill funding school choice for disadvantaged youth. It would allow their families to choose between a public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school to best meet their needs.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced Choices in Education Act of 2017, or House Bill 610, on Jan. 23. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The proposed legislation would limit the Secretary of Education’s power and repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the U.S. national education law, which provides equal opportunity for all students.

“The concern regarding vouchers is the formula used to determine per pupil expenditure,” Lawrence Superintendent Gary Schall, said. “The current state formula is inaccurate and would have a negative budgetary impact on the district if that became the monetary basis for the voucher system.”

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, offered federal grants for textbooks, special education centers and scholarships for low-income college students. Under the bill, the Secretary of Education would be limited to evaluating applications from states and making payments to them. Money distribution to the states depends on the number of eligible children between 5 and 17 who are in public or private schools or home schooled.

The bill is also intends to repeal the No Hungry Kids Act, which was recommended by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture on Jan. 26, 2012 and established nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch programs.

In December 2015, former President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and built upon it. It upholds protections for high-need students and requires that all students in the country be taught to academic standards that prepares them to do well in college and in their careers.

Officials from both the Hewlett-Woodmere School District and the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway officials declined to comment on the proposed legislation.