Education Reform, Part 1

Common Core puts a worm into this apple.
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There are several categories that need to be discussed regarding Education Reform. This will be a two-part series. Part One will discuss the problems and the proposals. Part Two will discuss the solutions to this problem that lie within the hands of We the People. Although those interested in this position are probably well aware of the shortcomings in the field of academia, I would like to mention a few things before getting down to the nuts and bolts.

Education reform and progressive agendas

First, education has been the recipient of a milieu of progressive agendas, which have proven to be very successful. These agendas cover the dumbing-down our children, eroticizing them, and turning them into atheistic hedonists.

Goals 2000 was the government flavor of the day when I first noticed something was terribly wrong. After much protest by savvy citizens, Goals 2000 seemed to have been exiled to the island of government mis-fit programs. At least that’s how it seemed. The truth was that regardless of a formally accepted program, the core curriculum standards of Goals 2000 made their way into NJ classrooms through our State Department of Education. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of Goals 2000. It reinvented itself as Common Core.

Today Common Core is a federally funded program that requires states that take government money for education to comply with curriculum standards set in Washington D.C. Common Core has set goals similar to Goals 2000 in that it insidiously creates global citizens instead of American ones, and those citizens will be so undereducated that they won’t have a clue about what we are about to lose as a nation or the repercussions of their mis-placed allegiances. Common Core goes a little further than Goals 2000 in that it unabashedly seeks to establish a federal Department of Education that will eradicate local school boards. This means that parents will lack the means of protesting programs that they believe to be inappropriate – for whatever reason. And, if you happen to be a Christian, you may be interested in knowing that Goal 5A teaches biblical myths. Things like a worldwide flood, the creation account and the resurrection are sure to be addressed as myths, or at best allegories. Furthermore, this new generation of global citizens will usher in an age that accepts programs like the U.N.’s Rights of the Child. You can read about this in more detail at www.ParentalRights.org. With great confidence I can predict that the fruit of Common Core will be well-indoctrinate global citizens who are hedonistic atheists and disrespectors of their parents, national sovereignty, and individual human rights.

Those who understand what is happening in our government-run schools are rightfully objecting but often feel powerless to do anything to slay the education monster. Others are rightfully discussing education reform – both in New Jersey, as well as the rest of the country. Whenever reform is discussed, legislation takes center stage. To be sure, legislation in the form of school choice is one of the many facets that need to be addressed but it will not provide the sole solution to this problem, and bad legislation may actually escalate the problem.

The proposed legislation

Education reform, or indoctrination?

Education reform, or indoctrination?

One of the problems with only using legislation to fix our current academic decline is the illogical notion that government can fix the problems government created. Not only is this illogical but it does not take into consideration that government-run schools have been one of the most potent vehicles for change used by progressives. The core curriculum standards statewide and nationwide include more indoctrination than academics. It is highly unlikely that those who would “change” the fabric of America will abandon this efficiently-running vehicle without a fight.

Education Reform Legislation – counting the cost

In New Jersey, Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco, Michael Patrick Carroll and Alex DeCroce sponsored, Assembly Bill, No. 4033, co sponsored by Assemblyman Dominick DiCicco which is commonly referred to as “New Jersey Parental Rights Program.” (Hereinafter referred to as the “Program”)

I believe the legislators involved deserve kudos for their effort. However, there are details in the Program that can lead to unintended consequences. The best of intentions often lead to unintended disastrous consequences, like No Child Left Behind. Many of us thought NCLB sounded like a good thing, but it only escalated the dumbing-down process, as teachers taught to the tests and little else. When proposing legislation, our legislators very often do not count the cost or consider the downside of what they are proposing. It is as if they have all bought into the notion that all legislation is good legislation. History has shown that it is not.

My opinions are those of someone who has founded a private Christian school and understands what religiously based schools may object to legitimately. These objections should be taken into consideration or we could end up with a Program that enables students and their families to make educational choices but could leave them with very limited schools to choose from, since many private schools may elect not to take part in the Program.

That may be the best of the potential problems.

The most glaring problem with the Program as proposed lies in its Non-Discrimination clause. Non-Discrimination clauses are a good thing, but this particular one will prompt many religious schools not to participate. It reads on Page 3 of the bill, lines 37-43:

“To be eligible to participate in the program, a nonpublic school shall be located in the State, and the chief school administrator of the nonpublic school shall demonstrate to the department that the nonpublic school: (1) complies with all applicable health and safety codes; (2) does not discriminate in admissions on the basis of race, color, national origin, or religion…”

Regarding health and safety codes, those requirements already exist for the operation of a nonpublic school, therefore this criterion is a bit redundant and non-essential. However, it is item (2) that creates a problem for nonpublic schools that are also religion-based. Many such schools have policies regarding the religious beliefs of the student and/or parents, and staff – such as all complying with a specific Statement of Faith. For example, the non-discrimination clause would require a Jewish school to hire Muslim teachers, or a Christian school to hire atheists, or traditional fundamentalists to hire homosexuals. Requiring those schools to violate their policies would encourage them not to participate in the Program, thus creating a gap regarding private schools that parents may wish to consider. And should the schools participate anyway and attempt to keep their policies in place, as it has been suggested to me, they would leave themselves open to facing well-founded lawsuits.

There is another more insidious potential problem with school choice legislation as written. By dangling government money in front of school boards that are usually struggling with budget issues, many will be tempted to take the money – accepting the attached strings. These schools may at first seem to be dealing with the government core curriculum standards required to enable them to be accredited and repercussions from the non-discrimination clause, but eventually their principles will be eroded and they will not be much better than their government-run counterparts.

There is another potential situation that may be even worse. Non public schools that elected to participate in the government program will look very attractive to parents. After all, they can send their children to a private school and have the bulk of the tuition picked up through the state voucher system. Eventually, this choice will put the unrelenting schools out of business. In any of these scenarios, what you are left with at the end of the day is a private school system that has become the mirror image of government-run schools.

The question of separation of church and state

The question from some may be that if this is public money, due to the Establishment Clause – or the “Wall of Separation” as it is usually referred to, can these monies be sent to schools that do discriminate on the basis of religion? The answer is yes.

In Everson v. Board of Education, 1947 (a case that was initiated in New Jersey) a New Jersey law authorized payment by local school boards of the costs of transportation to and from schools – including private schools, including religious private schools. The case challenged public monies being sent to religious private schools. Everson appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 5-4 decision was handed down on February 10, 1947. The Court, through Justice Hugo Black, ruled that the state bill was constitutionally permissible because the reimbursements were offered to all students regardless of religion and because the payments were made to parents and not any religious institution. Perhaps as important as the actual outcome, though, was the interpretation given by the entire Court to the Establishment Clause. It reflected a broad interpretation of the Clause that was to guide the Court’s decisions for decades to come. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everson_v._Board_of_Education.

Back to the proposed legislation

Page 4, Line 7 through Page 5, Line 7 deals with qualifying private schools. Again, this would most likely discourage private religious schools from participating in the Program. It is laden with obstacles and bureaucratic regulations that most private schools would shy away from. However, it is entirely reasonable that standards be established that assures the state that private institutions that are receiving state funds meet reasonable fiscal and educational criteria. This can be done effectively without state intrusion. For Protestant Christian schools there are two accreditation organizations: Association of Christian Schools that serves schools that fall into the Reformed category, and Association of Christian Schools International that serves Evangelical Christian schools worldwide. Both organizations have high standards for accreditation and could serve as a liaison of sorts between the state and the private school without the interference of state bureaucracies. There are a number of recognized accreditation organizations that can fulfill the function of satisfactorily accrediting a school without government interference.

Regarding fiscal responsibility, the solution is much simpler. Private schools that are established as a 501(c)(3), are already scrutinized by auditors and have to meet strict IRS requirements. If a school is in good standing, there is no need to impose additional accounting requirements on them.

Opportunity Funds

It has also been proposed by our state legislators that an Opportunity Scholarship Fund be created that would allow businesses to contribute to a scholarship fund for students in underperforming schools. The monies would be disbursed to students that have been selected by a state board or panel. Again, this is redundant and would result in a system that is actually worse than the one that already exists. According to IRS rules, any public school and any non-profit school is allowed to accept donations, and those donations are tax deductible. By creating a state fund, local businesses may not realize that they can donate to the school of their choice. Promoting this option through  media will not make potential donors aware that they can choose which schools to donate to, and this will create perceived limitations for the potential donating entities. The donations will be received by a state panel who will decide where that money goes, and the loss of accountability by the receiving school to the donor will be removed. It would have negative repercussions for potential donors of private schools by encouraging private donations that may have gone to the non-public school to go to the state board instead. This can only hurt existing non-public schools.

The Opportunity Scholarship Fund, as well-intentioned as it is, actually limits choice for those who take part through donations. Furthermore, the term “Scholarship” should be eliminated, since this fund should not be based on academic achievement but on a need basis. If the state was serious about encouraging businesses to donate to schools in failing districts, they would sweeten the pot by offering a tax deduction that exceeds the donation by 20%. For instance, a donor who contributes $1,000 to a school of their choice would receive a $1,200 tax deduction. But still, it is critical that any such program be funded on a true choice principle, where the donor selects the school it donates to.

All in all, the proposed New Jersey Parental Rights Program is headed in the right direction but I would suggest some fine tuning as previously indicated. If this fine tuning is not done, then I would suggest that the legislation be abandoned as the potential problems can greatly outweigh the short term benefits.