Across the United States, heated debates are occurring within school board meetings and state legislative hearings about the respective roles of parents and teachers in public education. Many parents are becoming increasingly concerned that their rights are being subsumed by schools and bureaucrats who have grown comfortable using schools as ideological platforms to correct the allegedly unenlightened views that are instilled in children by their parents. Left unchecked, these incursions into parental rights will only increase in scope and severity. Here in Minnesota, the Senate Republican Caucus has responded to these concerns by advancing a package of bills called the “Parents Bill of Rights.”
In general, the Minnesota Catholic Conference supports these legislative efforts to protect parental rights in education. Parents are the first educators, responsible for ensuring the ethical, religious, and skills training for their children so they can nurture their gifts and serve the way God intended. Social entities such as the Church and state can subsidize parents in their role, but never replace them as—according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church—the role of parents “is incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others” (CSDC #239).
The cornerstone of the Parents Bill of Rights, S.F. 2909 (Eichorn), states that schools must not withhold information about their child’s well-being or education and would require schools to have a regular system for notifying families of activities at school. A second bill, S.F. 2666 (Benson), would require that access to each class syllabi be made available to parents within the first two weeks of the educational term. A third bill, S.F. 2575 (Gazelka), would require schools make all instruction materials available to parents and provide reasonable accommodation to alternative instruction if requested by parents.
The fourth bill, S.F. 1525 (Chamberlain), creates educational savings accounts for students who choose to opt out of public schools. An ESA is like a debit card that parents can use to craft an educational plan for their child. That may include nonpublic school, homeschool, or some combination thereof. If you like your public school, you can keep it. But if a child is not being served well by the public school system, they should be able to take their allotted tax dollars put them to use in a way that brings about flourishing.
“Parents have the right to choose the formative tools that respond to their convictions and to seek those means that will help them best to fulfill their duty as educators. . . . Public authorities have the duty to guarantee this right and to ensure the concrete conditions necessary for it to be exercised” (CSDC #240). We hope all Minnesota Catholics will join their voice in support of these important bills.
The enactment of ESAs is a cornerstone advocacy goal of MCC and our partner organization Opportunity for All Kids (OAK). Please take this opportunity to sign up to stay informed and engaged with OAK by visiting opportunityforallkids.org.