Parents, Declare Your Education Independence

Lennie Jarratt | Project Manager for School Reform, Heartland Institute

On July 4, 1776, American colonists declared their independence from a distant monarchy in Great Britain that had passed mandate after mandate without input from the people over which it ruled. Today, lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington, DC and state capitals across the country pass mandates local schools hundreds or even thousands of miles away must obey or else face severe budget cuts.

These mandates are often detrimental for those looking to attain a quality education, such as assigning students to schools by their ZIP code, demanding students take feckless tests, and counting the number of hours students sit in their seats as a gauge of academic performance. Others are downright absurd, such as dictating what bathrooms and locker rooms students must use and restricting the width of doors. These mandates are a one-size-fits-all approach, bereft of any meaningful input from parents.

Now is the time for parents to declare education independence for their children.

The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions parents have the right to direct the education of their children, including in Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). The court ruled in Meyer a state could not prohibit the teaching of children in a language other than English — based on 14th Amendment protections — and the Court determined such requirements violate the rights of teachers and parents “to control the education of their own.”

In Pierce, which arose after Oregon mandated students attend the local public school where they reside, the Supreme Court ruled, “Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska … [W]e think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. … The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

It is clear from these rulings and the history of our great nation parents have more power than they realize or exercise over how their children are educated. Parents have allowed state and federal bureaucrats to wield far too much control over their children.

Of course, the education bureaucrats will claim only they know what a child should learn and how he or she should learn it. They will also claim mandates are necessary and even good. They hope parents will just believe their talking points and willingly give up their rights. Many parents have trusted these false narratives and handed their children over to a system that is failing to provide many children with a quality education.

The 240th anniversary of a disaffected populace that broke free from an unaccountable bureaucracy is a time to remember the tenets of that original declaration: self-evident truths, equality, and unalienable rights. Governments are implemented by the people and for the people, and when they no longer obey the people, they are to be altered or replaced.

It is self-evident our federal and state elected officials and education departments have usurped unalienable parental rights, especially parents’ right to control the education of their children.

Parents, it is time to declare your education independence and to reassert your right to direct fully the education of your children, who have an unalienable right to seek the education that best fits their needs — regardless of income or ZIP code. Education freedom is the key to unlocking your children’s future, granting them access to a better life, liberty, and enabling them to succeed in their pursuit of happiness.

Lennie Jarratt (Ljarratt@heartland.org) is the project manager for education transformation at The Heartland Institute.

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