Educational freedom, a topic that has languished in the doldrums for far too long, finally caught a fresh breeze of hope this year. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a blow against “Blaine Amendments,” which have centralized education in Western states like Wyoming and have made secularism the de facto religious perspective of government funded schools.
In August, the Trump campaign released a 2nd term agenda themed, “Fighting for You.” One item stood out: a pledge to “Provide School Choice to Every Child in America.”
This theme hasn’t been just an item tucked away among a longer list. It was arguably the most consistent theme across the RNC Convention as well – seemingly mentioned in every speech.
It’s difficult to imagine something more transformative – culturally, for families, and for individual students – than empowering families to choose the school they believe will help their children. Enabling parents and students to choose the right fit for their individual needs would enhance competition, allow for values to be protected, improve results, and help students to flourish outside of a one-size-fits-all agenda.
For years, the major parties have been too afraid to tackle this tough issue, not because it’s wrong (it’s right!) and not because it isn’t popular (it is!), but because powerful political lobbies stand in opposition. It’s time for this era to end, and it’s why Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming® is committed to leading our state into a new age in education.
We’re committed to breaking the logjam, removing the obstacles, and providing the resources to the pro-education freedom, pro-parent, pro-student, pro-family agenda – providing children with more options, more hope, and more opportunity.
Whether we achieve school choice is very much on the ballot – from the President of the United States on down to your State Representative and School Board – and the discussion will very much permeate the future of education conversation in Wyoming. It’s imperative that we elect the right leaders and have the right strategy to achieve our goals.
Changing children’s lives for the better has never been more opportune. Education freedom is wildly popular and is a key to victory. It’s also instrumental in changing lives, strengthening families, bolstering culture, and fueling prosperity. The time to act is NOW!
Because we stand with students and their parents,
Right now, families across America are managing the wild uncertainties of the new school year and facing difficult choices regarding the schooling of their children. Many families will be “virtual learning” for an indefinite amount of time. Others have chosen to pull their children out of public school and homeschool instead, and some are fortunate enough to return to a “new normal” of in-person private or public school. And, of course, many families are returning to homeschooling as usual. As families make different choices for their children’s education, no family is untouched by the effects of COVID on education in our country.
Millions of American parents have been compelled to decrease or stop working altogether to educate their children. We can relate. We both work outside the home, as do our husbands. We are grateful to have our careers but very familiar with the incredible challenge of educating children from home while working and parenting fulltime. It’s a lot to juggle, but we are the fortunate ones. Millions of American parents don’t have the option of flexing time at work or decreasing the amount of time they spend working. If they decrease their hours at work, their bills won’t be paid. It’s not an overstatement to say that many, many American families are faced with whether to provide food and shelter or education for their children. That is a choice no family should be faced with.
Some say “virtual learning” or “online school” is not homeschool. We agree – it’s not the same. In virtual school, the school provides the lesson plans and assigns work to students. However, the parents teach their young children how to use a mouse, open Google classroom, mute themselves, type into chat boxes, etc. –not to mention reading instructions to their children, helping them write and type assignments and ensure they are completed. In many cases, parents also absorb the financial costs of laptops, tablets, webcams, and high-speed internet service to participate in “virtual learning.”
Public schools receive thousands of dollars in state and federal funds per student enrolled in their school. Currently, public schools are receiving the same, full amount of per-student funding regardless of whether they are delivering in-class learning or “virtual learning” to students. Many districts are actually receiving more funding than normal due to federal COVID relief. So while parents are forced to work less or not work at all in order to home-educate their children, the public school system receives complete funding for their children’s education while the parents receive none.
This reality is not only unfair, but illogical and wrong. Now more than ever, taxpayer dollars for education must follow the child.
You might be familiar with the phrase “money follows the child” when you hear people talk about “school choice.” Traditional school choice allows states to give money directly to parents for the education of their child. Most commonly, these programs are called Education Savings Accounts or ESAs. These savings accounts provide families complete control over the taxpayer funds allocated to their child(ren) to purchase laptops, curriculum, private school tuition, tutoring and other supplemental materials.
Families need and deserve access to education savings accounts today!
Many families are desperate to access funds now to educate their children. If the public school is educating your child, that’s great. They should get the money. But if they aren’t, it is fundamentally unfair the school is getting paid while the families are getting the bill.
State legislators need to hear from families today. Please take a moment to contact your lawmakers and urge them to make education savings accounts available to families immediately. (To find your state representative and senator if you don’t know them, click here.)
Also, stay tuned! In a few short weeks, Family Policy Alliance® will be releasing a national education guide for equipping parents with all they need to know about school choice, what’s going on in the public education system and how to protect children, and to help parents engage with policymakers impacting their children’s education at all levels.
Statesmen Academy Director
Earlier this week, the campaign for President Trump released a 2nd Term Agenda themed, “Fighting for You.” While there are many good nuggets in there, one item stood out: a pledge to “Provide School Choice to Every Child in America.”
And, it hasn’t been just an item tucked away among a longer list. It’s been arguably the most consistent theme across the RNC Convention this week – seemingly mentioned in every speech.
It’s difficult to imagine something more transformative – culturally, for families, and for individual students – than unleashing school choice in America. Empowering parents and students to choose the right fit for their individual needs would enhance competition, allow for values to be protected, improve results, and allow for students to flourish outside of a one-size-fits-all agenda.
For years, the major parties have been too afraid to tackle this tough issue – not because it’s wrong and not because it isn’t popular – because powerful political lobbies stand in opposition. It’s time for this era to end, and it’s why Family Policy Alliance of Georgia® is committed to leading our state into a new age in education.
We’re committed to breaking the logjam, removing the obstacles, and providing the resources to the pro-school choice, pro-parent, pro-student, pro-family agenda – providing children with more options, more hope, and more opportunity.
Whether we achieve school choice is very much on the ballot – from POTUS on down to your State Representative – and the discussion will very much permeate the State Capitol. It’s imperative that we elect the right leaders and have the right strategy to achieve our goals.
If you agree with speakers like Senator Tim Scott, Ambassador Nikki Haley, First Lady Melania Trump, and so many more, then we ask you to partner with us today.
This Administration priority is wildly popular and is a key to victory. It’s also instrumental in changing lives, strengthening families, bolstering culture, and fueling prosperity. The time to act is NOW!
Because we stand with students and their parents,
President and Executive Director
Over the years at Family Policy Alliance, we’ve had the privilege of being entrusted with some of your (parents & grandparents) deepest concerns about your children. You’ve given us the privilege of praying for your children and of helping you decide how to best handle issues that have arisen affecting your children.
Through the course of this partnership with you, some of the saddest situations you’ve shared with us are what your children have been exposed to at school. And we’ve had the heavy responsibility to warn you about what is happening in schools across the nation.
Remember Planned Parenthood’s radical sex education curriculum that they’re pedaling in public schools or now through your children’s phones? We partnered with a diverse coalition to expose the transgender policies being sprung on children in schools, providing parents with a comprehensive guide to understanding and addressing concerns. We’ve helped rally parents to oppose a radical new LGBT curriculum requirement And lately, we’ve been fighting to save girls’ sports from becoming targets in the latest round of political attacks. And so much more.
Now we’re excited to invite you to attend a virtual event: The Protecting Children in Education Summit
The virtual summit is a one-day-only event on August 12th, from 10:00AM – 12:00PM Eastern Time. The event is FREE, but you do need to register online!
Family Policy Alliance® is joining with our friends at The Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, California Family Council, Family Research Council, Family Watch International, and Massachusetts Family Institute to provide this first-ever event for parents and grandparents.
The first session will alert parents to state and federal—and even international—efforts to sexualize children using school curriculum. The second session will expose the curriculum itself and how it fails to meet legal standards.
This is sure to be an eye-opening event! And, you can watch and learn online from home or work.
We hope you’ll join us virtually!
Vice President, Strategy
Education is best left to local school boards and parents.
Textbooks have historically been approved and purchased by local school boards that are accountable to parents and community members. But now, state legislators want to remove you and your school board from the decision-making process regarding educational materials.
This new “state approved textbook database” would restrict school boards from purchasing textbooks from any vendor of their choice. They would be legally required to purchase textbooks from companies that publish LGBTQ-inclusive material. Academic excellence, accurate content and well-placed images and questions are no longer paramount.
This legislation will have the consequence of forcing publishing companies and textbook authors to elevate sexual attractions and gender identities in their publications in order to be approved by the state of NJ to sell books to your school district. Elected school board members in collaboration with parents serving in curriculum committees should decide what is best for their community, not the all-encompassing overreach of state government.
Your help is needed now to contact members of the Assembly Education Committee, urging them to oppose A3052, the “state approved textbook database”. This bill has already passed the Senate Education Committee and will soon be heard in the Assembly Education Committee.
Once you have sent your message to the Assembly Education Committee members, I will email you their phone numbers and a quick script you can use to follow up with individual phone calls, if you wish.
Please share the link with others. Thank you for spreading the word!
Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey
By Vince Torres, President & Executive Director
The COVID-19 global pandemic continues to impact every area of our lives, and as we approach the fall, parents with school-aged children are shifting their attention to education. In New Mexico, schools were closed in early-March and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently announced that our public schools will not reopen for in-person learning until September at the earliest.
Even with the Governor’s announcement, tremendous uncertainly remains about whether schools will actually reopen this year and if another closing will quickly follow. Consequently, most New Mexico parents and families find themselves in the tough position of determining how to best continue their children’s education. While many parents will choose to utilize available online public education, a recent poll suggests that a record number of American families will homeschool their children this year. In either case, the new school year will commence much like the last school year concluded – with “home” as the classroom, and parents and guardians as the primarily responsible educators.
This reality begs the question – should New Mexico parents receive a partial refund of their children’s education dollars to support at-home learning?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico taxpayers spend almost $10,000 a year per student on public education. This amount does not include federal funding dollars.
With public schools buildings closed from March through at least September, and with many families in need of help to support educating their children at home, what if New Mexico parents received a reasonable tax refund to help purchase curriculum, computers, supplies, tutoring services, internet access, and other necessities?
Maintaining some level of continuity in our children’s education is of the utmost importance and we must provide parents, grandparents, and guardians with the means to support educational excellence in the home. In years past, our political leaders have stressed the importance of keeping “more money in the classroom.” And since “home” is the classroom for most New Mexico children right now, perhaps some of our tax dollars should come back home.
“Education funding should always be student-centered…rather than institutional.”
-Dr. Lindsey M. Burke, The Heritage Foundation
More than 10,000 people from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds signed our petition to request that families have the right to opt their child out of any lesson or material that violates their religious or moral beliefs regarding sex, sexuality, or gender identity. The English and Spanish petitions were delivered to the pro-family primary sponsors of the soon-to-be-introduced opt-out bill and to the NJ Commissioner of Education. It will be delivered to the entire Legislature and Governor Phil Murphy later this month.
We now move to the next phase of mobilization – visiting legislators in each district to share with them the concerns of parents. Are you willing to join others in your legislative district in attending these appointments?
We have legislative captains in most districts that are scheduling these urgent meetings throughout August and September. We need you to join them!
Legislators recognize that any constituent who is willing attend a meeting represents thousands of others in their district who hold similar views. In other words, ten people attending a meeting could represent 10,000 voters in that district. Your presence can make the difference!
It will take an organized and persistent effort to convince NJ Senate and Assembly members to hear our bill giving parents the right to opt their child out of lessons that violate their religious beliefs regarding sex, sexuality and gender identity.
Director of Advocacy
Governor Murphy announced this week that NJ will offer a remote learning option for families who prefer to keep their children safely at home due to the potential spread of the coronavirus in public school facilities. His decision was based on the number of educators and parents who have stated their intention to refuse in-person education. He expects schools to physically reopen but does acknowledge that if an increased outbreak were to occur in the fall, school districts will be ready to transfer to complete at-home remote learning once again. Some public schools have already submitted their plans to split students into two groups at the start of the school year – spending half the time receiving in-person learning and half the time at home using remote learning.
With an increased likelihood that children might be spending time at home again this school year, this becomes a prime opportunity to take control of your children’s education.
Public school is becoming less attractive to morally conservative families. The new state Learning Standards for Sex Ed are graphic, explicit and age inappropriate. Pornographic illustrations have crept into high school literature classes despite parental outrage. Transgender themed novels are required reading assignments in many 5th grade classrooms. Sadly, our state legislature has recently passed a “State Approved Textbook Database” bill out of the Senate Education Committee. This will establish authorized vendors that school districts will be required to purchase all textbooks from regardless of any objection from local school boards and parents. If this becomes another flawed state law, textbook vendors will only be able to do business in NJ if they promote the LGBTQ agenda within their publications.
Due to the coronavirus, virtual learning might be a requirement, but virtuous learning is a choice. I know many parents might be unsure how to start homeschooling or might be intimidated to teach their students at higher grade levels. Are you interested in learning more about possibly home schooling your students this year? Please take our survey to help us find out the best way of assisting you.
We believe parents know their children best and are in the best position to make decisions about their children’s education. Home school is not for every family. We support parents being involved in public schools and private schools. Each family is unique in their schedules, abilities, and financial restraints.
Director of Advocacy
After an abysmal month at the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservative wing of the Court handed school choice and religious freedom proponents a major victory last week in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts ruled that Montana’s application of a “no-aid provision” discriminated against religious schools and families, in violation the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In 2015, the State of Montana enacted a tax-credit scholarship program to help low-income families send their children to the better schools, including private, faith-based institutions. Sadly, the Montana Department of Revenue subsequently issued a rule declaring that children receiving these scholarships could not use them at religious schools. The Montana State Supreme Court agreed, citing the infamous “Blaine Amendment” in Montana’s State Constitution.
Thirty-eight states, including New Mexico, have the discriminatory Blaine Amendment in their state constitutions. The Amendment arose in the late 19th century in an effort to keep Catholic influence from public schools. In the Court’s opinion, Chief Justice Roberts provided the historical context, noting that “[t]he Blaine Amendment was ‘born of bigotry’ and ‘arose at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general.’”
Since that time, the Blaine Amendment has been repeatedly used to discriminate against religious schools and institutions, and to exclude them from public funding and programs. In 2012, for example, two anti-religious activists sued the State of New Mexico, arguing that our textbook lending program violated the state constitution because it allowed children from religious schools to access educational materials available to children in other schools (Moses v. Skandera). To defend their case, the activists pointed to the Blaine Amendment found in Article XII, Section 3, of New Mexico’s Constitution.
Thankfully, five Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the bigotry of the Blaine Amendment, ruling that the U.S. Constitution “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them.”
With the Court’s ruling, Montana families are now free to choose the education that best suits their children, and religious schools cannot be disqualified from a school choice program simply because they are faith-based. Although New Mexico currently has no such programs or scholarships available, this decision provides yet another reason why our state should enact school choice legislation and offer families more options when it comes to educating their children.
No parent should be discriminated against for choosing a better education and future for their child, and no government should be able to place limitations on a child’s future because of that child’s zip code or family income.
We want to thank our allies, including Montana Family Foundation who authored the legislation, and several of our New Mexico State Legislators who signed an amicus brief in support of the petitioners in the case—Sen. William Sharer, Rep. Rod Montoya, Rep. Cathrynn Brown, Rep. Rebecca Dow, Rep. David Gallegos, Rep. Gregg Schmedes, and Rep. James Strickler.
Thank you all for helping us fight for children, parents, and families, and better opportunities for all.
President & Executive Director
“The group consisting of mother, father, and child is the main educational agency of mankind.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There hasn’t been much good news from the Supreme Court lately, but today we’re happy to share a good opinion from our nation’s high Court. Today, five of the Court’s nine justices decided that parents should be free to choose the best education for their children—and that includes education in private, faith-based schools.
The Court’s decision today is a win for parents, for religious freedom, and most importantly—for children. We believe that children win when their parents can choose the best education for each child, and that no government should place limitations on a child’s future because of her zip code or her family’s income.
And, today’s decision is a beautiful story of how families and godly values advance when we—the family of believers—unleash our citizenship to see government work for the people.
Please let me share that story with you. I believe it’s an important one for every believer who cares about this country to know.
In 2015, good legislators in the state of Montana passed into law a tax-credit scholarship program designed to help low-income families, especially single mothers, send their children to the best schools for them—including private faith-based schools. The law was written by our friends at Montana Family Foundation.
Then things started to go wrong. The Montana Department of Revenue issued a rule saying that children receiving the scholarships could not use them at faith-based schools. So, three mothers who believed their children would be better off at faith-based schools filed a lawsuit. Sadly, the Montana Supreme Court issued an opinion in 2018, stating that it believed Montana’s Constitution allows the state government to discriminate against faith-based schools based on a provision historically used to prohibit government funds from going to faith-based schools (also known as a “Blaine Amendment”), and it struck down Montana’s good scholarship program.
What’s worse is that many states have “Blaine Amendments” in their Constitutions, and these Amendments were discriminatory in nature from their very beginning. They started out in the 1870’s as a way to keep Catholic influence out of the largely Protestant public schools during a time of high anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bias in America. Obviously, the Blaine Amendments are old dinosaurs in the law based on interdenominational conflicts that need to go extinct.
As the conflict over Montana’s scholarship program reached the Supreme Court, the Montana Family Foundation, which represents family values in the state, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case defending the law on behalf of Montana’s families.
Family Policy Alliance and the state family policy councils also worked to gather state lawmakers to file another friend-of-the-court brief in the case to show the Supreme Court that good lawmakers in other states also want to advance options for education choice for families. In fact, many lawmakers who are alumni of Family Policy Foundation’s Statesmen Academy signed onto this brief!
And now today, the Supreme Court declared that families in Montana should be free to choose the education that best suits their children—including in faith-based schools, that the old Blaine Amendment used to invalidate the scholarship program is bigoted and discriminatory, and that faith-based schools can’t be disqualified from a school choice program just because they are faith-based.
President Trump, who supports school choice for children as a civil rights issue, also issued a statement today in support of the Court’s decision, saying “no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.”
Today’s decision is a celebration of how children are the real winners when believers work to elect state lawmakers who support their values, those state lawmakers pass good laws, citizens and lawmakers join together to defend those good laws, the nation’s high Court applies our constitutional religious freedom protections correctly, and our President supports the values we hold dear.
This is a win for biblical citizenship in action, for your faithful partnership in supporting the mission of Family Policy Alliance to advance your values in both public policy and elections, and—most importantly—for children who deserve the best foundation we can give them as they seek out God’s calling on their lives.
For our children,
Vice President of Strategy