Heritage Research Impacts State, National Education Policy


Heritage Research Impacts State, National Education Policy

June 18th, 2019

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The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy is having an impact on important policy debates at both the state and national level.

On June 6, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law protections for free speech on college campuses.

Aspects of the law reflect research conducted by Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Education Policy. The new protections are similar to policies enacted in North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia, as well as by the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents.

Butcher testified in Alabama on behalf of the new law, which clarifies the expressive rights of students on campuses in the state.

“The bill holds individuals responsible for their behavior—especially when someone tries to prevent someone else from listening to a speaker or being heard themselves,” stated Butcher on the impact of the law. “Alabama’s proposal is a robust set of provisions to protect free speech on college campuses.”

The law’s provisions echo policies promoted by Heritage. For example, the law bans the creation of “free speech zones,” which regulate where students can speak freely. In addition, Alabama public universities cannot censor students or faculty on positions contrary to the stance of their school, and the board of trustees at each college must submit reports to the Alabama state government each year on speech infringement incidents.

In addition to the Alabama legislation, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on June 4 about the nation’s school lunch program. The report mirrors ideas produced by Heritage.

The GAO notes in its report that, despite taking measures to reduce reporting errors, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not adequately assess misspending in its National School Lunch Program. This report echoes the research of Butcher and former Heritage Foundation research assistant Vijay Menon.

This past March, Butcher and Menon published a report detailing the massive waste in the National School Lunch Program, as well as how the program’s expansion has caused it to drift from its original mission of helping children in need.

“Heritage research documented significant waste and misspending in federal school meal programs, and this new GAO report finds many of the same problems,” said Butcher. “Nearly a billion dollars is lost in the National School Lunch Program each year, and the recent accounting changes by the USDA have made new waste reports incomparable with prior years’ reports.”

The GAO recommends the Department of Agriculture conduct regular and standardized fraud assessments to reduce program waste. The report published by Heritage recommends getting rid of the Community Eligibility Provision, which will help the program return to its original purpose of helping children in need.

Heritage’s Center for Education Policy was created in 2017 and is led by Lindsey Burke. As its director, Burke oversees the foundation’s research and policy on issues pertaining to preschool, K-12, and higher education reform. She is also the Will Skillman fellow in education at Heritage.