San Diego

New House Bill Pushes Forward School Vouchers, Takes Away Nutrition Requirement

The bill is called Choices in Education Act of 2017

A bill in Congress would create school vouchers allowing eligible students to use federal funds to attend private, charter, religious or home schools.

The idea has never gained traction in California, where voters have twice shot down ballot measures creating a school voucher system.

HB 610 proposes to eliminate the landmark 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which supports school districts serving high poverty populations, provides funding for educating homeless children and helps schools ensure that English learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency. 

Critics said the bill is an attempt to take funding away from public schools. 

"When you're in those failing schools, they're the ones that need what comes with the voucher, which are funds," one parent told NBC 7.

The proposed legislation is called Choices in Education Act of 2017, and was introduced by Iowa Rep. Steve King on Jan. 23. 

It also proposes abolishing strict nutrional guidelines schools must now follow for healthy lunches and breakfasts served at school.

A nutrition supervisor at San Dieguito Union High School district said getting rid of all the regulations is a bad idea, but loosening the rules to allow some flexibility in nutrition would be beneficial.

"What we would tend to emphasize as registered dieticians is we focus on moderation, balance and variety," said Marley Nelms, Nutrition Program Supervisor.

Congresswoman Susan Davis sent NBC7 this statement about the bill:

“This bill takes nutritious food out of the mouths of our kids and would deplete our public schools of much-needed resources.  Studies show that well-fed students are better prepared students that are more attentive in class and succeed. The last thing we need to do is rollback recent progress in the area of school nutrition," Davis said. "In fact, we should be expanding access to nutritious meals by closing the summer hunger gap. I will be introducing legislation to ensure that students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches will have access to these meals in the summer months.”

Parents around the county weighed in on the idea of school vouchers.

"I think choice is wonderful but I don't think a voucher--it doesn't neccessarily mean you're going to get into whatever school you decide you want your child to go to," said Carlsbad parent Linda Edelman.

Another parent said the voucher system may actually help advanced students reach their full potential.

"For us, Common Core hasn't been the greatest and so the idea that you can take your child out of fact, they've have to kind of dumb down the curriculum to make it comply with common core," said Carmel Valley parent Anna Moss. "And if you've go kids that want to go for it, I think they ought to be able to go for it."

Many parents who home school their kids are adamently opposed to school vouchers, fearing that with federal government money will come more oversight and guidelines.

"I see vouchers as the Trojan Horse to get the federal government in the door of private schools," one local parent told NBC7.

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