By now you’ve likely seen a post from a friend or teacher than contains a reference to HR 610 (House of Representatives Bill 610).

The bill has not passed, nor has it been heard in Committee. Now that President Trump has issued a budget, we have a clearer picture of what HR 610 will mean for schools and for special education students, in particular.

Well what is it exactly?

Around $370 per kid in vouchers and abandonment of laws that require schools to facilitate student success for at-risk students.

Disabled little boy in wheelchair watching children play on playground

Why do we have federal funding of education? To help at-risk students.

Students at-risk of failing in school and dropping out include the twice exceptional, students with learning and other disabilities, the poor, and students who struggle to acquire English language literacy. Keeping them in school and learning improves our workforce and our ability to compete as a nation.

The goal of the current law is in its title: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The ESSA formula looks at how many kids are in a state and whether some are more expensive to educate than others. For special education students, ESSA is a positive step forward with its focus on

  • improving outcomes for students with literacy-related disabilities,
  • reducing disciplinary measures and student management methods that disproportionately impact the disabled,
  • ensuring homeschool and private school students can obtain special services,
  • catching reading and language challenges early,
  • supporting twice exceptional students (those who are both gifted and disabled).

How things would change under HR 610

HR 610 repeals ESSA in its entirety.

It redistributes money from states with less kids to states with more kids. It makes no effort to allocate funds to at-risk students and it repeals legislation that directs states to help at-risk students succeed.

HR 610 won’t improve outcomes from the students who need it most

HR 610 offers families about $370 per school-age child as a voucher. There is no obligation for a private or charter schools to accept a child. For many children with disabilities, whether mild or severe, this promise of choice is an empty one.

For families considering private school, $370 per isn’t likely to tip the scale. Those families can either already afford private school, or they can’t. HR 610 doesn’t make their lives better in a meaningful way.

8.5 billion fewer dollars for at-risk students

HR 610 will divert 2.4 billion dollars from public schools, assuming private school and home school enrollment numbers do not change (about 13% of school-aged children total). The proposed budget cuts elementary and secondary education by about 6.1 billion dollars on top of that diversion.

In total, this is a cut of about $170 per student. But ESSA doesn’t allocate by student, it allocates by need. The schools most in need stand to lose much more than that.

Take for example, Garden City Public School district in Michigan, 16% of its student population is disabled. Six percent have autism spectrum disorders. About 52% live below the poverty line. It’s graduation rate has improved over the last five years.

If HR 610 is passed, Garden City can expect to lose 1.9 million dollars in annual funding. They will need to let go about 20 teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, and psychologists to survive the shortfall. In a world where there is no longer a mandate to provide services to any child who does not qualify for IDEA, these cuts will come from programs and staff that help students with disabilities succeed. Students with literacy challenges will suffer the most.

Is the current distribution and focus under ESSA just right? That certainly is worth a closer work (can you say third graders). But is throwing it out the solution? HR 610 does just that.

Next post: Let’s stop testing third graders. But in until Congress acts, try one of over 200 Boom Learning resources to help your third graders practice ELA and Math skills for testing season. These are free to try.Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 12.20.52 PM