REMINDER:  The school year is starting and in addition to being watchful and engaged in your child’s education, there is still an opportunity (until September 12) to submit a comment to the U.S. Department of Education regarding the Biden administration’s proposed new “rule” to Title IX. (Review some of the specifics of the problem and of how to submit a comment, here.) This new “rule,” has many troubling aspects, not the least of which is how it undermines parental rights.  

For those that have already submitted comments, “Thank you!”  You are making a difference!

The following is contributed by Shannon Wixom.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Supreme Court has a long history of defending the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
  2. Parental rights are being usurped by statism, an ideology in which the government is portrayed as the highest moral authority in the land, and the individual inferior to that of the state and its designated “experts.”
  3. In recent years, government-run schools have significantly diverged from parents’ interests, including a proposed new rule that would radically alter Title IX and redefine parental status to allow school personnel to act in place of parents.
  4. School choice is one of the best ways to give empowerment back to parents. That can come in the form of ESAs (Education Savings Account that follows the child), charter schools, learning pods, low-cost private schools, microschools and homeschool collaboratives whose competition will also improve public schools.

Over the last several years, the rights of parents in America have been under attack, especially in the realm of our children’s education. A popular example is when Democrat Terry McAuliffe said during the Virginia gubernatorial race, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” I have a hunch he regrets those infamous words.

Unfortunately, this is not the only example of an influential person or organization who believes parents shouldn’t have full empowerment for their children’s education and upbringing.

The Statist View of Parents

When interviewed for his current administrative position, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona would not agree that parents are the “primary” stakeholders in their children’s education, only that they are “important”.

Ibram X. Kendi, popular author and race hustler (he makes a lot of money by touting that all societal issues are about race/racism) marginalizes parents by lumping them in with a host of many other people he calls “caregivers” in his new book, How to Raise an Antiracist.  “This book is for the people doing the raising. This book is for caregivers. When I say caregiver, I mean all the people who are nurturing the environments, experiences, minds, bodies, souls, and future of children.”

A meme from the Michigan Democratic Party (later retracted) questioned whether parents who send their children to public schools should have any influence over what is taught there. “The purpose of a public education in a public school is not to teach them only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know.”

Media outlet Flaglerlive claims that the majority of parents “…know to trust teachers to do the job they’re trained to do better than any one or two parents can. They know it’s schools’ job to open their child’s mind beyond the confines of home.”

A Washington Post op-ed headline last fall read: “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.”

The examples above illustrate a growing trend in the United States toward statism, a belief that the government is the highest moral authority in the land, with the individual being inferior to that of the state and its designated “experts.” (See Theodore J. Forstmann’s article, Statism: The Opiate of the Elites.)

Statism thrives in America today because of the disintegration of the nuclear family. Or is it the other way around? It’s no secret that expanding the welfare state has promoted single parenthood over intact families. Remember “The Life of Julia,” Obama’s campaign ad in 2012? It followed anonymous woman Julia through the milestones of middle-class American life, all made possible by the government she was married to.

No matter our political persuasion, this trend should concern anyone who believes in the principles established in our federal constitution, and who respects the role of parents to have full empowerment for their children’s upbringing and education.

A Brief History of Parental Rights in the American Judicial System

Prior to 2000, the Supreme Court had a long history of defending the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Here are several important cases:

  1. Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923) held that the state cannot ban the teaching a foreign language and therefore infringe on the “right of parents to control the upbringing of their child as they see fit.”
  2. Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) established “the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control” and held that the state can’t “standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”
  3. In 1972, Wisconsin v. Yoder set the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause precedent that “no Amish child could be required to attend school beyond the eighth grade” because of Yoder’s claim that “school attendance was offensive to and undermined his religious beliefs.”

Then in 2000 the Supreme Court’s split decision in Troxel v. Granville opened the door for individual judges and states to apply their own rules to parental rights because it failed to produce a majority opinion that explained the nature of parental rights or determined whether they should receive the same protection as other “fundamental” rights.

However, in 2020 the court again voted in favor of the plaintiff in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue and validated a parent’s constitutionally protected right to direct the education of their children. And even more recently, in June of this year the court ruled in Carson v. Makin that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a parental choice program.

Kurt Lash, Professor of Law at University of Richmond, writes in an opinion piece for Newsweek, “The need for strong judicial protection of parental rights is more urgent than ever. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that the interests of government-led educational institutions are not always in line with, and sometimes substantially diverge from, the interests of parents.”

Government-run Schools Have Diverged From Parents’ Interests

Today’s government-run schools are largely the product of the advocacy of Horace Mann, who believed that schools needed to be in loco parentis – “in the place of the parents” –if they were not deemed up to the task of raising their children. “Men are cast-iron, but children are wax,” he said.

Fast forward almost 200 years and today’s public education system shapes the pliable minds of our children to accept ideologies such as secularism and the tenets of critical theories. Listen to this podcast from Ben Shapiro for a crash course in understanding critical theory. To see it in action, read Christopher Rufo’s article, The Dismantlers, about a San Diego school district adopting the principles of queer theory.

In addition, the Biden Department of Education’s proposed changes to the Title IX Rule are extremely worrisome. The changes redefine “sex” to include gender identity, which will force public schools to affirm and accommodate students who identity as the opposite sex, thereby stripping girls of their privacy, safety and rights.

If implemented, the rules will also redefine “parental status” to allow school personnel to act in loco parentis (remember Horace Mann above?). This would allow them to withhold information from parents about their child’s identity and other decisions (like birth control and abortions). In a recent article published by Townhall, Christiana Kiefer sums up what this will look like for parents: “If President Biden’s proposed changes to Title IX go through, parents across the country can expect to be excluded from key conversations about how to guide their children through the struggles of adolescence and puberty. They can expect to be undermined, deceived, and ignored. They can expect their children to be turned against them by teachers, administrators, and counselors, who will point to federal guidance and say, ‘We have no choice!’”

If that isn’t disturbing enough, New York Post brings up an even more alarming aspect of the potential changes, which is that “…officials might use the rules to threaten parents who don’t affirm their child’s chosen identity. Because the regulations claim to apply to conduct that occurs ‘outside [the school’s] education program or activity or outside the United States,’ schools might get the impression they can label parental conduct at home ‘discriminatory.’”

School Choice is one of the Best Ways to Give Empowerment Back to Parents

What can parents do if they are currently unhappy with their government-run schools, or concerned about their children being molded like “wax” by the not-so-benevolent State? Do we have other options, or are they reserved only for elites who can move their children to private schools? Thankfully, the answer is yes!

Last year a poll done by RealClear Opinion Research showed that 74% of voters support school choice. Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children, stated, “Public support for school choice is at an all-time high. And, as the nation recovers from unprecedented, nationwide school closures, a new story is unfolding. Parents are rising up and demanding the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children. Thankfully, more and more lawmakers are listening. Already in 2021, seventeen states have passed legislation to improve, expand, or create new school choice programs.”

This year Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, signed the nation’s most expansive education freedom bill in the country. Many other states have some version of a voucher program, usually only able to benefit families who have low-income, minority or disability qualifications. The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship is unique in that it will apply to all students, regardless of family income status. Its Family Issue Fact Sheet says, “Without limitation, parents who want to opt out of public school (and even those who already have) are allowed to take advantage of the ESA program to help fund the non-public education of their children.”

In an interview with Christopher Rufo, Governor Ducey said, “We have to break up the cartel that is not teaching our kids things of value around math, reading, and science, or the actual skills of being a good future citizen. That was the real genesis in terms of what can be different in education. And that’s why I’m a huge fan of the educational savings accounts. It puts parents in charge of their child’s education, and it brings some of the market principles to bear that provide higher quality at lower cost, with greater return on investment.”

West Virginia has also experienced a dramatic increase in educational freedom over the last year, as well as the growth of microschools, learning pods, homeschool collaboratives and low-cost private schools. As an article for FEE reports, “The education entrepreneurs who are creating these models are diverse in their educational philosophies, building a dynamic landscape of learning options from which families can choose.”

One argument critics of school choice and vouchers make is that funds going to charter and private schools, tax-credit scholarships or directly to parents through ESAs (Education Savings Accounts) take money away from traditional public schools. In the article, Competition Is Good for Customers, but Would it Benefit Schools?, Keri D. Ingraham points out that this reasoning is missing some key facts:

First, charter schools, though public schools themselves, generally receive significantly less government funding per student than traditional public schools. When a student enrolls in a charter school, the traditional public school they are assigned often still receives a portion of funding for that student despite not providing any educational services or incurring any costs.

Second, private school families and homeschool families are equal financial contributors to the funding of the U.S. public education system through their federal, state, and local taxes, despite receiving no tax breaks nor direct benefits.

Third, by opting not to enroll their children in public education, the taxpayer funding is divided among fewer students, resulting in higher funding per student.

A 2019 study published at the Annenberg Institute at Brown University found that families were more satisfied with charter and private schools than government-run schools in six key areas. Read about them here.

Speaking from Experience

My family has experienced the benefits of school choice firsthand. For the last thirteen years I have had children enrolled in a local charter school system. I love the transparency between school and parents, teaching philosophy, rigorous and traditional academics (i.e. no Common Core), wonderful character development program, uniforms, high level of parent involvement, and diversity of ethnic backgrounds not found at my neighborhood public schools.

I’ve also witnessed my charter school system build new schools by salvaging materials with the help of parents from local public schools that the government was simply going to throw away when they remodeled or rebuilt schools. Our charter schools have consistently done more with less funding than public schools, and have outperformed them on many measures of academic performance and outcomes.

The pros of our charter school experience come with a few cons, like a longer carpool time, but I’ve decided the sacrifice is worth it for now. Parents have a right to search out the “best fit” for their children’s education. No fit will be perfect, they all come with “tradeoffs” as Thomas Sowell would say, but having choices makes all the difference. Whether to stay with your neighborhood schools, move to charter or private schools that work for you and your family, or homeschool your children should be decisions you make as a parent.

Full empowerment for our children is something we can all advocate for, no matter our political persuasion or income status. Polly Williams, State Representative from Wisconsin and former inner city mother, has a lot to say about how school choice raised her family and many others in Milwaukee out of poverty. “Choice empowers parents. It allows them to choose the best school for their children. It doesn’t say, as the educrats do, that poor people are too dumb (they use the word ‘uninformed’) to make choices. Poor people are the same as rich people. They may not have much money, but they have the same desires and the same needs. And poor people make decisions all the time. They decide where they are going to live, what grocery store to buy from, where to shop for clothes—they decide everything, but all of a sudden, the educrats claim that they don’t have enough sense to make a decision about the education of their children.”

We must continue raising our voices for full empowerment for our children’s education and upbringing, and vote for representatives that will respect our desires and federal constitution. To learn about the parental rights and education laws in your state, visit United Families International’s interactive map of the United States.

Let’s hope that Arizona and West Virginia, with their expansive education freedom policies, will pave the way for other states to implement as well. School choice will increase transparency between institutes and families, improve public schools through competition, enhance equality of opportunity for all students, especially minorities, and realign our values with those our country was founded on.