Keep the Federal Government out of School Choice



The federal government is moving to get ahead of states in the school choice arena and it could effectively create a nationalized education system. “[The federal school standard] is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything.” – Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.

This is not a direct indictment of the federal school standards as it is an indictment on how the federal government is using tax dollars to take over schools using the words “School choice” as their Trojan horse.

While some people consider Governor Jindal to be hyperbolic, they should first read through House Resolution 5. House Resolution 5, sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R) of Minnesota, titled “Student Success Act” was first introduced during the 113th Congress. The bill passed the House on July 19, 2013 but did not pass the Senate. [mc_name name=’Rep. John Kline (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000363′ ] has reintroduced the bill and it is currently being reviewed/updated by the House Education and the Workforce committee. [mc_name name=’Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’A000360′ ] is creating a similar bill for the Senate.

“Jindal names the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the suit, which argues that states are forced to cede their “sovereign authority over education policy to the federal government” to receive federal grants and police waivers linked to adoption of the standards.” – Los Angeles Times, Louisiana Gov. Jindal sues feds

House Resolution 5 (HR5) requires states who accept federal funds for school vouchers waive all rights to legislate or operate state level education. While the verbiage is written in the positive, implying that states retain their rights, that retention is tied directly to federal funds. Note, “the Secretary” is the Secretary of Education, currently Mr. Arne Duncan. (excerpts from HR5 filed in July 2013).


States to retain rights and authorities they do not expressly waive


Retention of rights and authorities

No officer, employee, or other authority of the Secretary shall enforce against an authority of a State, nor shall any authority of a State have any obligation to obey, any requirement imposed as a condition of receiving assistance under a grant program established under this Act, nor shall such program operate within a State, unless the legislature of that State shall have by law expressly approved that program and, in doing so, have waived the State’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance.


Amendment of terms of receipt of Federal financial assistance

An officer, employee, or other authority of the Secretary may release assistance under a grant program established under this Act to a State only after the legislature of the State has by law expressly approved the program (as described in subsection (a)). This approval may be accomplished by a vote to affirm a State budget that includes the use of such Federal funds and any such State budget must expressly include any requirement imposed as a condition of receiving assistance under a grant program established under this Act so that by approving the budget, the State legislature is expressly approving the grant program and, in doing so, waiving the State’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance.

What “requirement(s) might be imposed by the Secretary (of Education) as a condition of receiving (federal) assistance”? The answer is the federal school standards. “States that adopted [federal school standards] were awarded extra points on their applications for Race to the Top funding. A handful of states, including Texas and Virginia, did not adopt the standards. It is the promise of extra funding that Jindal says in the lawsuit coerces states into adopting the [federal school standards] and “constitutes unlawful coercion that exceeds federal authority and violates the 10th Amendment,” the lawsuit says. The suit also objects to waivers given out by the federal government that Jindal says allows states to waive certain requirements if they adopt the [federal school standards].” Los Angeles Times, Louisiana Gov. Jindal sues feds

If a state chooses to accept federal money, it waives all rights to operate its schools as it deems fit within its borders.

Another problem with HR5 is that it looks to expand charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that are not governed by local school boards. The charter boards are not elected but appointed, typically by the mayor of the city. Read through the following text and ask yourself why expanding charter schools is so important:

Section 3101.


It is the purpose of this subpart to—

(1) improve the United States education system and educational opportunities for all Americans by supporting innovation in public education in public school settings that prepare students to compete and contribute to the global economy;

(2) provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools;

(3) expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the Nation;

(4) evaluate the impact of such schools on student achievement, families, and communities, and share best practices between charter schools and other public schools;

(5) encourage States to provide support to charter schools for facilities financing in an amount more nearly commensurate to the amount the States have typically provided for traditional public schools;

(6) improve student services to increase opportunities for students with disabilities, English learners, and other traditionally underserved students to attend charter schools and meet challenging State academic achievement standards; and

(7) support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process to improve performance management, including transparency, monitoring, and evaluation of such schools.

Voters lose as charter schools expand because they have no representation with their taxation. As with all federal dollars, once the charter school accepts federal funds through grant-based vouchers, they will waive any rights to setting curriculum and academic standards for their school. The federal school standards will apply.

What about private schools? If private schools accept a student with a federal grant money voucher, they must match 50% of the grant for each student all in the name of “an equitable basis”.  Section 3205, Section C states “(c) Matching contribution: An eligible applicant receiving a grant under this section shall provide, either directly or through private contributions, non-Federal matching funds equal to not less than 50 percent of the amount of the grant.” And if the private school cannot afford to match the grants? What are the implications of HR5 on private schools?

Section 5501.

Participation by private school children and teachers


Private school participation


In general

Except as otherwise provided in this Act, to the extent consistent with the number of eligible children in areas served by a State educational agency, local educational agency, educational service agency, consortium of those agencies, or another entity receiving financial assistance under a program specified in subsection (b), who are enrolled in private elementary schools and secondary schools in areas served by such agency, consortium, or entity, the agency, consortium, or entity shall, after timely and meaningful consultation with appropriate private school officials or their representatives, provide to those children and their teachers or other educational personnel, on an equitable basis, special educational services or other benefits that address their needs under the program.


Secular, neutral, and nonideological services or benefits

Educational services or other benefits, including materials and equipment, provided under this section, shall be secular, neutral, and nonideological.


Special rule

Educational services and other benefits provided under this section for private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel shall be equitable in comparison to services and other benefits for public school children, teachers, and other educational personnel participating in the program and shall be provided in a timely manner.

(4) Expenditures

(A) In general: Expenditures for educational services and other benefits to eligible private school children, teachers, and other service personnel shall be equal to the expenditures for participating public school children, taking into account the number and educational needs, of the children to be served.

So, what’s good and required of public schools will be good for and required of private schools if they choose to accept federally backed vouchers.

Homeschoolers will face a similar challenges as they accept federal school voucher grants. Along with public and private schools, homeschools are already having to align with the national educational standards.  The College Board, the non-profit organization who develops and produces the SAT also played an active role in the development of the federal school standards. As part of this collaboration, the College Board helped draft the standards and helped shape the initiative by providing executive guidance on the [federal school standards] Advisory Committee. You can read the College Board research report here.

HR5 is a bad bill for actual school choice because it effectively removes choice and taxpayer involvement in schools over time in those states who choose to accept the federal grant vouchers. School choice advocates should be up in arms over this bill. Learn about HR5 and talk to your representatives about the actual application of the bill in real life and not just the positive, warm feeling words.