As a parent, one of the principal areas of concern for you is the education of your children. You, of course want to ensure the best education possible for your children. In this country, in which the lines of parental rights and the state’s can get a little blurry at times, it is crucial to understand where you stand as a parent regarding your children’s education. And we know you have many questions. So we gathered some of the most commonly asked questions parents had in respect to their children’s education and we asked David DeLugas, founder of ParentsUSATM to sit down with us to answer them.
1) I don’t live in a good public school district and I would rather my child not attend the public school. If I don’t have the funds to send my child to a private school, do I have the right to send my child to a neighboring town’s public school?
The answer to this question is contingent upon the laws in your state. While there are a few states nationwide that do offer such an option, most unfortunately do not. These restrictions are due to property values, funding for school districts, the influence of public school educators and lobbyists, and others who prioritize their interests over providing the best education for students across each state. Some states are working toward providing “vouchers” which will permit parents to enroll their child in private school.
An important takeaway for this question is that this issue is not within the Constitutional rights of parents. Why is this? Given that parents are free to choose where they and their children live (there are limitations however, often due to a parent’s financial circumstances), parents have control over which school district their child will end up attending school in. Parents can also change school districts if they move their family to another state for example, due to a change of job, or simply to move to another area of town with a school district that is more preferable.
The right to dictate? The word “right” is wrong here. The power, yes – the right, no. Until parents collectively have the clout and power to challenge the states’ imposition of the curriculum and other terms and conditions for homeschooling, the state will be able to mandate what its bureaucrats decide. These bureaucrats are influenced by the educators (teacher’s unions) and lobbyists who discourage homeschooling due to the fact that federal and state money funds schools based on the attendance of children. What you should know is that the right for you to homeschool your child at all, (not the curriculum you teach) is protected. The state uses the curriculum a home-schooled child is taught as a measure to gauge that child’s attendance, to enable the school district to still receive funding on behalf of that child. Therefore, the curriculum a home-schooled child is taught as well as the house spent homeschooling are regulated by the state.
ParentsUSATM considers “mandatory attendance laws” as unconstitutional. Why? Arguably, a state has a “compelling governmental interest” in ensuring its citizens obtain a certain level of education. Note though that the mandatory attendance laws are CRIMINAL statutes. Excessive absences that are “unexcused” or that a parent has not been able to justify are considered a violation of these attendance laws. There is NO state law mandating that a child become minimally educated. ParentsUSATM has provided pro bono legal defense for parents charged with the criminal statute and aims to challenge the constitutionality of such a statute.
To-date, the parents we have represented for violation of attendance laws end up pleading no-contest or guilty in a plea deal with a small fine and no jail time or probation rather than going to trial and appealing a conviction. ParentsUSATM also has drafted statutory revisions that would require school districts to accept any verified note from a parent as an “excused” absence so long as the child (student) has achieved an objective academic criteria the school district has established (such as a C or C+ or numerical equivalent) to ensure the claimed “compelling governmental interest” has been satisfied. To influence legislators and governors to enact such revisions requires substantial resources, voters and funds, because so-called educators work diligently to oppose such changes. The issue all goes back to money.
The right to participate in activities is not a constitutional right of parents (or taxpayers). However, such permission or right can be attained through legislation. For example, Former U of Florida, Heisman-winning quarterback, Tim Tebow was homeschooled, but was able to play football at the public school nearby. The laws in his state permitted him to do so. Some states allow it. Others do not.
There are consequences or repercussions to any violation of a school rule or policy. When enrolling your child, you are agreeing to abide by those rules and policies. Of course, a more sensible rule or policy would make academic achievement alone the criteria to determine whether a child can advance to the next grade. Alas, that is a more logical consideration and government unfortunately, unless pushed, forced, or influenced, will fail to act in the reasonable ways that also serve the interests of freedom and liberty of parents and their children.
Collectively as parents, we can make a difference if we join together as a united front. Then we will have the clout and influence to exercise our voice to impact legislation on behalf of parents and their children. Join today for a better tomorrow.