Over the past two and a half years, how our children are being educated has become especially contentious. I believe the increased focus is due in part to the school shutdowns during the initial COVID outbreak. During that time, parents had the opportunity to observe interactions between students and their teachers during online classes. Parents also began to play a significantly increased role in their children’s education since hands-on activities were suddenly delegated to them. Some kids thrived in an educational environment which was dependent upon intense independent study, and some fell behind.
Alternative instructional delivery methods were introduced, and parents experimented with various private and co-op options as they struggled to balance continuing to provide for their families with ensuring their children were cared for and continuing to grow in their education. I watched as private organizations within my own community came up with innovative ways to meet the needs of their neighbors while keeping their own doors open in response to changing regulations regarding assembly and provision of services. For example, a local cheerleading organization in my county opened their doors to provide learning “pods” where kids could meet in small groups to attend their classes and complete their schoolwork online.
When schools were finally reopened, then the debate became about vaccination and personal protection equipment (AKA masks). Schools were mandated to provide a certain amount of space between each student and many required that children and teachers wear masks all day. Drinking fountains were closed and children were asked to bring their own water bottles to school. Vaccination was sometimes required of teachers and often strongly encouraged among students. Some schools even provided vaccination clinics within their walls to make vaccination more accessible to those children whose parents wanted them to receive vaccination. There was and still is talk of requiring COVID vaccination for students prior to their entering public school.
School board meetings raged with parents on both sides of the mask and vaccination debates, and superintendents often had to walk a very fine line between complying with ever-changing regulations and keeping staff and customers (students and their parents) safe and happy. The percentage of students being homeschooled increased exponentially as parents concluded that the public school was not meeting their family’s educational needs as well as they could themselves or through alternative means. Staff resources became strained as teachers resigned in droves and were not replaced.
Although COVID is still here and will probably never leave entirely, it is now less of a hot topic than it was two years ago. Now the focus is on social issues such as concerns about whether CRT or other controversial topics are being taught in schools. The transgender restroom debate has been resurrected and now includes curriculum and treatment of students as well. Heated arguments about how and what and where and by whom our children are being taught are still occurring at school board meetings. Regardless of where an individual’s opinion falls on any of these issues, those fighting on either side believe that they know what is best for the education of our children.
I believe the answer to all these polarizing issues surrounding the education of our children lies not in deciding who is right and who is wrong about any given issue, but in providing access to choices. Most often, with the current model, kids attend the school near where they live. It’s no surprise that parents with differing viewpoints are at odds with each other about how that one specific school is run; they have no choice what schools their children attend so of course they would prefer that their children are taught according to their own beliefs. Enabling access to more than one school with different teaching styles and focuses provides choices to parents regarding how their own children are educated, and as a result, they won’t feel obligated to lobby for any individual school to subscribe to their chosen beliefs.
As Legislative Director at People for Liberty, I am in a unique position to help facilitate change within our country by compiling and providing access to information about bills related to educational freedom and other liberty-related issues. The legislative team and I have compiled a list of just a few bills that have been introduced both at the state and federal levels which will impact educational freedom, if passed. Below is a brief list. You can find more information on People for Liberty’s Legislation page.
- Federal: HR1097 CHOICE Act: enables DOE to make grants to parents for education related expenses including private tutoring and home schooling
- Federal: HR4983 Parental Choices Not School Mandates Act of 2021 prohibits schools that receive federal funds from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations
- Federal: HR6603 allows local educational agencies to distribute per-pupil funds to parents for qualified educational expenses.
- Federal: HR8137 and S4416 Educational Choice for Children Act make donations to scholarships tax exempt and prohibits governmental control over granting orgs
- Alabama: HB459 and SB302: Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act – enables funding for public charter schools similar to non-charter public schools
- Louisiana: HB227 Creates and provides for a program to provide funding for education of students with exceptionalities not enrolled in public schools
- Louisiana: HB33, HB824, HB838: Creates and provides for a program to provide state funding for the education of students not enrolled in public school
- Louisiana: HB452 Creates and provides for state funding for education of students who have been victims of bullying and are not in public school
- Virginia: HB784 Creates an income tax credit for 2022-2026, for amounts paid by parent for home instruction expenses or private school tuition
- Virginia: HB1371 enables funds earmarked for a child’s public education to be used by parents to help fund alternative means of education.
People for Liberty’s mission is to serve as a resource for liberty activists as well as other organizations who are fighting alongside us. There are numerous organizations who are also fighting for educational freedom and it’s important to collaborate with each other and combine resources for the most effective result.
I had the opportunity to attend a lobbying training hosted by Americans for Prosperity and the Virginia Educational Opportunity Alliance in September, where we learned how to effectively present the case for educational freedom to legislators. We were invited to speak in front of the group about why educational freedom is important to us. Hearing my testimony prompted a reporter from USA Today to interview me further – you can read the story here.
If educational freedom is a topic of interest to you, I encourage you to get involved by clicking on the I Want to Help! Button near the applicable bill on our Legislation page. You can also help by entering a bill that you know of that isn’t already listed, or by providing information on any organizations you know that are already working to support any specific legislation which will improve access to educational choices. Together we can work together to help increase freedom for all by supporting or fighting legislation that has a direct impact on our liberty.