By Brittany Jones, an attorney and Policy Manager for Family Policy Alliance
Parents, not faceless government officials, have the fundamental right and solemn duty to direct the education and upbringing of their children. Clear and simple. This is not only a guiding legal principle in our country, it is a reality lived out by parents every day—because only parents can truly know their children and make decisions in their children’s best interest that will set them up for the best future possible.
Directing a child’s education about the world, academics, and faith is the most important duty of a parent. Because children typically spend 7-8 hours of their day in an education setting, the influence of that environment fundamentally influences children culturally, socially, and spiritually.
This means that parents must be free to choose a method of education that best aligns with their faith and and their child’s learning style. When parents are free to do this, they are creating the best foundation for their children to grow into a wide-open future and providing them the fuel to explore God’s unique calling in their lives.
Thankfully, there’s a growing variety of educational choices for parents, though some states are more friendly when it comes to meeting families’ education needs than others. The education method this article focuses on is homeschooling.
As you may know, Tim Tebow—the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback—was homeschooled. But thankfully for him, he lived in Florida, where home schoolers are allowed to play sports on public school teams. Had he lived just a bit further over on the Georgia side of the state line, for example, he wouldn’t have had this opportunity.
Family Policy Alliance supports a policy that’s become known as a “Tebow Law,” a law in the majority of states that ensures children who are homeschooled have the same opportunity to access public school extracurricular activities as other children. We believe that a child’s learning style and academic needs should never prevent her from participating in skill-building extracurricular activities. States like Georgia, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Kansas still deny homeschoolers this access. Unfortunately, “Tebow Bills” in both Georgia and Kansas this year never even made it out of committee. There is still a chance in West Virginia and Hawaii for their bills to be passed.
Tebow Laws create a small opportunity for children now that can lead to a big future.
In addition to supporting good laws that expand opportunities and choices for children who are homeschooled, Family Policy Alliance and our state-based family policy council allies fight against bad bills that would limit those choices.
Recently in Hawaii, homeschoolers rallied to defeat a bill that would have allowed a school superintendent to deny parents the ability to homeschool their children. Hundreds of homeschoolers turned out to testify in opposition to the bill. Eva Andrade, President of Hawaii Family Forum, our allied group in Hawaii, shared how families came together to defeat this bad bill:
“Something powerful happens when faith-based homeschoolers come together and raise their voices. Not only were the legislators amazed at the turnout, they could not silence the articulate and passionate voices of families in the trenches that do this important work every day. It was an honor to stand in their shadow.”
God calls and equips parents to raise up their children according to His Word. And we also know that God has a unique calling in every child’s life. Our heart at Family Policy Alliance is to partner with godly parents to help them see good bills passed in their state that will increase opportunities for children and protect the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
If you agree that giving children have a wide-open future and the fuel to explore God’s calling in their life is best for every child in your state, and every state, we hope you’ll consider partnering with us.
By Autumn Leva, VP of Strategy
As believers, we all lament decisions by courts and politicians that have “kicked God out of our public schools.” But what if we—the family of believers—stopped lamenting and instead decided to do something about it?
That’s what’s happening in Georgia right now, and we wanted to make sure you heard about it—because it can happen in your state too.
Last fall in Georgia, a high school football coach knelt in prayer with his players before the game. Then, an atheist group called Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the school a threatening letter saying that the coach was out of line—and of course used the tired, old, and always out-of-context mantra “he violated the separation of church and state.”
But here’s the kicker—this atheist group isn’t even located in Georgia. They’re based in Wisconsin and have a reputation for meddling in other states—probably even yours, even if it didn’t make national news—attempting to silence religious speech and squelch any public displays of faith. Freedom from Religion Foundation typically targets small schools, towns, or even senior living homes without the means to fight back.
Now, our ally in Georgia, Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, and a bold state Senator, Michael Williams, are pushing back—and their efforts are getting a lot of attention in the media.
Whether public school staff can kneel or bow a head in prayer with their students is a gray area of the law, but Family Policy Alliance of Georgia and Senator Michael Williams believe that this should be a very clear area of the law—students should be allowed to pray at school, and teachers and coaches should be allowed to join them.
Senator Williams introduced a simple, common-sense bill to clarify that:
- Students can lead prayers and faith-based groups at school.
- Students can pray or express a religious viewpoint in their speeches (at graduation, for example) and in class assignments.
- Teachers can participate in student-led prayers.
Cole Muzio, President of Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, praised Senator Williams’ bill: “We are thankful that Senator Williams has stepped forward to affirm that First Amendment rights don’t end in the school parking lot. Teachers shouldn’t be forced to choose between their career and their faith, and students shouldn’t have to hide their faith at school.”
Does your state have a Senator Williams who will boldly step forward to protect your state’s schools from out-of-state activist groups, challenge the status quo, and restore religious freedom for students and teachers? Does your state have a Body of believers who will support a bold elected leader who will stand for faith?
Family Policy Alliance believes bold legislators who will stand for faith are worth supporting, and we want to help you find them in your state! Our calling and mission is to see godly men and women elected to the “mission field” of public office where they will serve families like yours and help restore religious freedom in every corner of the states and nation.
Imagine if we saw more coaches praying with their teams, more students in Bible studies and praying at school, and more teachers praying and reading their Bibles during break time. With a Body of believers willing to live out their faith by unleashing biblical citizenship, like the coach who prayed with his team, and elected leaders who share and boldly live out their values, we can see more of all of this—in every state—and we’re willing to work for it. Will you help us?
If you’re up for the challenge, I’d like to ask you to start by joining our Family Policy Alliance team in:
- Praying that the Georgia Legislature will pass Senator Williams’ bill to restore religious freedom in schools; and
- Committing, right now, to vote in the 2018 election for leaders who share your values.
by Brittany Jones, policy manager and an attorney
When I was growing up my parents simply wanted to know that I would make it to adulthood with the skills, knowledge and faith to make a difference in my small part of the world. My parents recognized early on that my brother got bored in a normal school environment, because he wasn’t challenged. They recognized that I didn’t learn to read in Kindergarten because I was too distracted by what Sally Sue was doing on the other side of the room. They recognized that my sister was drawing house floorplans before she could even write her ABCs. They took this information and made a hard choice. They made the choice to take us out of traditional school and to teach us at home, in a day and age when few in our community were educating their kids at home. At the time it was a scary, somewhat untried approach.
Maybe you are in a similar situation as my parents. Maybe your kid just wants to play football. Maybe they love dissecting worms in your backyard. Maybe they just like to paint. These are things that parents are in the unique position to observe and to act on for their child. Formal education is an enormous component in a child reaching their potential. A child’s education will launch their belief system and understanding of the world. As a society, we need to give kids the wide open space to explore whatever may interest them. We should seek to equip parents with the tools and space to make the decisions about their child’s education.
There are some concrete ways the government can help parents choose the best educational fit for their child:
Education Savings Accounts allow parents to save for their children’s education and use the funds when and how they see fit for educational expenses, helping remove some of the financial burdens of education. Tebow Bills, which allow a homeschooled student to participate in extracurricular activities and classes at their local public school.
“Tebow Bills” give students the opportunity to participate in public school activities and academic courses they might not otherwise have access to. This puts the choice in the hands of parents rather than the state.
My parents took a risk in our education, giving us the tools we needed to do something we truly love and are called to do. They produced a math teacher, an attorney and an architect.
And, yes, don’t worry — I did learn to read!
Family Policy Alliance is working every day to ensure you have the ability to raise your child in the way you are led. Whether in a traditional public school, an alternative public school, a private school, or home school, we want to equip you to raise and educate your child in a manner that best gives your child a wide open future and fuel to explore his or her calling.
This is part 5 of 5 in our Let Parents Parent series on the importance of protecting parental rights for families.