Dear Friends,

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!

Sincerely,

Advocacy Director
Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey

Dear Friends—

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.


Vince Torres
President & Executive Director

“The group consisting of mother, father, and child is the main educational agency of mankind.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

Dear Friends:

North Dakota ranks near or at the bottom in public education when compared to other states. Last year, Education Week magazine gave North Dakota a D+ rating for K-12 Achievement. Meanwhile, we are in the top half of per-pupil spending in the nation. So, what is the solution to this problem?

The solution is school choice. In last week’s email, I discussed why Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota® believes that parents know best what type of education their children need to succeed, and Education Saving Accounts (ESAs) are an excellent option to consider when it comes to school choice.  These accounts would allow parents to have direct control over public-funds (already designated for their child’s public-education) to be used for educational opportunities like private school tuition, tutoring, alternative curriculums and more!

Almost 30 empirical studies have shown again and again that increased school choice saves taxpayers money, improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens their shared civic values!

If you agree that ESAs can be an important option for your child’s education, please contact the members of the Senate Education Committee and urge them to support Senate Bill 2142, with amendments that include home-school families!

This committee will be a key decider on the fate of the ESA bill. Their vote could happen any time, so please make your voice heard NOW! It can make all the difference when it comes to protecting family values and school choice in North Dakota.

Sincerely,

Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director

Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota® testified on two important bills this week: one for infants that can’t be cared for by their mothers (often referred to as a “Safe Haven” bill) and another on Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Together, these bills cover our children’s lives from birth to when they are young adults.

The Safe Haven expansion bill (House bill 1285), increases options for newborn infant drop off points, while at the same time increasing the likelihood of the abandoned infant’s survival and ensuring he receives the highest quality of care – a goal that you and Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota strongly support. Though this bill poignantly highlights the need to address the results of a pervasive culture that continues to devalue life, we have an abiding belief in the worth and dignity of every human being and we must protect those who cannot protect themselves. If this bill helps rescue the life of even one child, the effort will be entirely worthwhile and certainly worth the support of our Legislature.

Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota also testified in favor of the Education Savings Account bill (Senate bill 2142) with some proposed amendments. We firmly believe that parents have the God-given responsibility and right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Toward this end, we believe that ESAs are an excellent option to consider when it comes to school choice.

Education Savings Accounts allow parents to control public-funds (that are already designated for their child’s public education) and use those funds for things like private-school tuition and textbooks. ESAs allow parents to fully tailor their child’s entire educational experience. Families know best what type of education their children need to succeed, and ESAs give families the keys to unlock that experience for their children. Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota wants to help launch children to success and access educational opportunities best suited for them to lay this critical foundation.

As always, thank you for your prayers, responses to our Action Alerts, and financial support. Together, these two bills will further ensure that our North Dakotan children are not only cherished, but given even more opportunities to realize their God-given potential!

Sincerely,

Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director

Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota 2019 Meet and Greet for Legislators

Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota® hosted a “Meet and Greet” reception for legislators this past Tuesday, at the Heritage Center. There were over 50 individuals in attendance, and it was a great time of sharing on important policy priorities you have told us are important to you—policy advancing school choice, education on reversing the effects of chemical abortion pills, and anti-pornography measures. It was a great time of providing information, exchanging ideas, and encouraging our elected officials to stand-firm in leaving a legacy of pro-life and pro-family values.

Today’s legislators can be role models for how to integrate faith into the political arena. But to do this, they must speak bravely for what is right and not be silent, because if they do not speak up, who will safeguard this world that the next generation will soon inherit?

In addition to the “Meet and Greet,” I also testified in favor of House Bill 1052 –legislation that will expand and better define parental rights in homeschooling. North Dakota has the most restrictive homeschooling laws in the nation, and this bill will offer parents access to more individualized educational opportunities for their children. Our son Chris also testified in favor of House Bill 1052. We homeschooled Chris for a number of years and he was able to share with legislators, first-hand, about the numerous educational opportunities that were available to him in Maryland – opportunities that weren’t available to him in North Dakota because of the restrictive laws. His testimony was compelling, and the House Education Committee really appreciated his perspective on the subject.

Ruth and I are very proud that Chris decided to testify (without my urging, I might add). Chris is part of the generation that will inherit North Dakota. I am encouraged that he decided to testify for a few reasons, but most importantly because Chris still believes that the political system works and that one person, when compelled by their convictions, can make a difference.

That gives me hope. Hope for the political direction here in ND. Hope against cynicism that can easily creep into the political process. And hope that the next generation feels strongly that politics is a substantive way to make their voices heard. The political future of North Dakota is bright, as long as we are shining role models the next generation can follow.

Sincerely,

Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director