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,
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
Sanctity of Human Life Awareness and Unity Day 2019, New Mexico State Capitol
On Saturday, at noon, the New Mexico Legislature adjourned “sine die,” concluding a Legislative Session unlike any other in recent memory. On the heels of the November “blue wave,” progressive legislators partnered with Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham to propose one of the most liberal agendas in state history. However, when the final gavel fell Saturday in both the House and the Senate, it became apparent that New Mexico was not quite ready to follow in the footsteps of California and become the next bastion for all things “progressive.” In fact, much of the progressive agenda faced harsh pushback from both the public and legislators on both sides of the aisle, leading to some unexpected victories and encouraging moments.
Today, we recap our “Top 5 Moments of the 2019 Legislative Session.”
- Radical Abortion Bill—House Bill 51—Defeated by the Senate. After passing the House of Representatives, the radical abortion bill, House Bill 51, was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 18-24. During the debate, Senator Gabriel Ramos (D) admonished the legislature for prioritizing the lives of coyotes, prairie dogs, and chickens over the lives of unborn children. When the final vote was tallied, 8 Democrats joined the 16 Senate Republicans to oppose the bill.
- Local Family Leads Effort to Pass “Simon’s Law.” In February, a local family from Albuquerque partnered with Representative Gregg Schmedes (R) to introduce legislation aimed at preventing doctors from instituting “do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders on a child without parental/guardian knowledge. Seven-year-old, Twila, was born with a genetic condition, and unbeknownst to her parents, doctors at UNMH repeatedly placed a DNR order on Twila’s chart. Although this legislation was tabled by the Democrats in a House Committee, the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Twila and her family was a highlight of the entire Session.
- Assisted Suicide Bill–House Bill 90—Tabled in the House. After clearing two House Committees, House Bill 90, which would have legalized assisted suicide in the state, was tabled in the House due to a lack of support. When the bill was originally introduced, it was considered by many to be the most extreme assisted suicide legislation ever proposed in any state. In addition to lacking many “safeguards” found in other states, the bill would have allowed non-physicians, including physician assistants, to prescribe lethal medication—leading Representative Rod Montoya (R) to refer to the bill as “Physician Assistant Assisted Suicide.”
- Thousands of New Mexicans Rally for Life. According to many people, the public engagement during this Session was stronger than ever. Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico® was proud to participate in four pro-life events, including “Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day,” “Pastors’ Day,” “A Prayer Vigil for Life,” and the final “Rally for Life.” Thousands of New Mexicans participated in these events and brought a spirit of prayer into a building that desperately needed it.
- Charter School Moratorium and Enrollment Cap Efforts Fail. In a victory for parental rights and school choice, efforts to halt the opening of new charter schools and cap charter school enrollment failed to advance.
The 2019 Legislative Session will not be soon forgotten, and these moments represent just a few of the highlights. Ultimately, we hope these victories help people of faith recognize that when we speak up and engage, we have the power to change outcomes and change our state. This Session was just the beginning and we believe much greater things lie ahead.
Thank you for your prayers and continued support!
The Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico Team
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
It is no secret that New Mexico consistently ranks near or at the bottom in public education when compared to other states. In January, Education Week magazine released its 2018 Quality Counts report, in which they ranked New Mexico 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Sadly, our substandard rankings in education have become an annual regularity, and, each year, we are told that the solution is more funding for public education. However, we rarely talk about the fact that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico spends more per-pupil than any of our neighboring states – states that consistently outperform us in virtually every education category.
So, if more money is not the answer to improving education in New Mexico, what is?
At Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, we believe that parents have a God-given responsibility and right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. To this end, we believe one of the most critical solutions needed to improve education in our state is school choice for families, and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) represent one option we should seriously consider.
What is an ESA? As described by EdChoice, ESAs “allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses.” Those funds—often distributed to families via debit card—can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, and other approved customized learning services and materials.
What are the benefits of ESAs? ESAs allow families to choose a better education for their children. Parents and guardians know what type of education and which school is best for their children, and ESAs would give them access to options not currently available to them. This particularly benefits middle-class and poor families, and those currently living in public education districts with struggling schools.
Have ESAs been tried before? Six other states, including Arizona and Nevada, have already established ESA programs, and at least thirteen others have introduced legislation this year to establish them.
How does the money work? Programs differ from state to state, however, the deposit of public funds into an ESA is typically a fixed amount established by the state, or a fixed percentage of the per-pupil state funds.
Are ESAs a good idea? Overall, we believe ESAs are a great idea for New Mexico. ESAs give a sizable amount of freedom to parents on how to best educate their children and they explicitly recognize the responsibilities of parents to play a role in their children’s education.
Something to think about: According to an EdChoice survey (2017 Schooling in America), ESAs have strong support among Democrats (71%) and Republicans (73%), and particularly strong support among Hispanics (81%).
Something to pray for: Please pray for our schools—including our public, private, charter, and home schools—that God would bless, protect, and improve them for the benefit of all our children.
Something to do: Please take 2 minutes to watch this short video on ESAs – “A New Kind of Education Savings Account”
God bless you and have a great week!
President and Executive Director