Thursday, August 28, 2014

The shame of Blaine comes sweeping down the plain

"Hostility to aid to pervasively sectarian schools has a shameful pedigree," Justice Clarence Thomas once noted.

In light of today's ruling in Oklahoma County District Court that Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship funds cannot be used to send special-needs children to sectarian schools, it's worth taking a closer look at that pedigree. In his book Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon (Crossway, 2003), historian and journalist Marvin Olasky does just that:
Public (that is, government-funded, nonchurch) schooling caught on in the 1840s and thereafter, after the nation’s founders were gone. Many schools were not so much non-sectarian as antisectarian, and anti one faith in particular, Catholicism. Catholics, perceiving the public schools as devoted to teaching Protestantism, worked to set up their own institutions and asked that some of their tax money be used to defray expenses. The response was ugly: Opposition among Protestants to the growing number of Catholic immigrants, largely from Ireland, and concern that children going to Catholic schools would grow up to oppose American liberty led to riots in the 1840s and 1850s. One Philadelphia riot in 1844 resulted in thirteen deaths and the burning down of a Catholic church.

Some writers wanted to stop all immigration, but others looked to public schools to save America. An article in The Massachussetts Teacher in 1851 stated that children of immigrants “must be taught as our own children are taught. We say must be, because in many cases this can only be accomplished by coercion. ... The children must be gathered up and forced into school, and those who resist or impede this plan, whether parents or priests, must be held accountable and punished.” The Wisconsin Teachers’ Association declared in 1865 that “children are the property of the state.”

Ironically, the public schools weren’t doing much to teach Protestantism. The intellectual leader of the public school movement was Horace Mann, a Unitarian who pushed for largely secularized public schools and overcame opposition from Protestants by assuring them that daily readings from the King James Bible and generic moral instruction could continue. He succeeded largely because of bigotry and over the objections of theologians such as R. L. Dabney (the Stonewall Jackson aide), who explained that teaching a person how to use a saw could be done in a value-neutral way, but “dexterity in an art is not education. The latter nurtures a soul, the other only drills a sense-organ or muscle; the one has a mechanical end, the other a moral.”

Nevertheless, bigotry was so rampant that some Protestants were content to try teaching in a religion-less way as long as Catholics would be hard-pressed to maintain their own school system. President Ulysses S. Grant, who called Catholicism a center of “superstition, ambition and ignorance,” proposed in 1875 a Constitutional amendment that would require states to establish government-funded schools, forbid those schools to teach any religious tenets, and prohibit any government funds from going to religious schools. James Blaine, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, introduced the amendment the following week, and it became known as the Blaine Amendment.

The amendment was instantly controversial. Vermont Senator Justin Morrill wrote, “The Catholics will rave, but I suppose there is not one who ever voted for free-men, free-schools, or the Republican party in war or peace.” It easily passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Senate, and Blaine lost out in his attempt to become president in 1884. Nevertheless, thirty-seven states during the late 1800s and early 1900s inserted into their state constitutions versions of the Blaine Amendment, sometimes under duress. Congress often required Western territories seeking admission to the Union to have the amendments in their state constitutions. Ironically but biblically (the book of Proverbs notes that “he who digs a pit falls into it”), those amendments are now a major barrier to school choice across the country and to any government funds going to Christian schools.

Arizona’s supreme court recently called that state’s Blaine Amendment “a clear manifestation of ... bigotry” and did not let it sideline a tax credit law that furthers school choice. In 2000 Justice Clarence Thomas attacked the Blaine Amendment by name, noting, “Hostility to aid to pervasively sectarian schools has a shameful pedigree that we do not hesitate to disavow.” He emphasized that “this doctrine, born of bigotry, should be buried now.” If journalists had covered this story, they would have been able to attack accurately the evangelical arrogance of the past, find out today who is willing to have a level playing field for all religions, and see who is pushing for supremacy for his particular worldview.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

'A crisis as millions of students abused by teachers'

Child sexual abuse "appears to be rampant" in unionized public education, Investor's Business Daily editorializes, "often with little done about it and with teachers unions largely silent. It gets little national media attention. ... It's time to hold teachers, unions, and the media accountable for letting these predators ruin young lives."

Want to increase public-school funding?

Jeff Spalding suggests you try school choice.

Quote of the day

"Let me be blunt," says one vocal defender of Oklahoma's public education system.
We have some really bad administrators and some really bad teachers who shouldn’t be able to get a job. Yep, call me names if you want, but you know I’m right. We can all think of a teacher or administrator who shouldn’t be a teacher or administrator. Hell, the only reason the really bad educators are able to keep getting hired is because there is no one else out there keeping the bad ones from getting a job. This is embarrassing.

Can homeschoolers police their own?

Recent events in Idaho suggest that "the homeschool community could find ways to help identify problem cases, however rare, while minimizing government interference," WORLD reports.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Educational choice champions prevail in Oklahoma run-off elections

"The Oklahoma Federation for Children celebrated the results of tonight's run-off election, as parents responded overwhelmingly in support of educational choice candidates," according to a press release from the organization.

All six of the Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund supported candidates were successful and strongly believe in empowering parents through educational choice. The most closely watched race was between Melissa Abdo and Chuck Strohm. Abdo, the frontrunner and an unapologetic opponent of educational choice, was upset by pro-educational choice candidate Chuck Strohm.

Russell Perry
"Today’s results speak volumes about the importance and impact of educational choice – voters overwhelmingly favor candidates who believe in school choice and offering parents with robust quality options," said Russell Perry, Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. "Although all of the candidates have very different backgrounds, one thing these candidates all support is improving Oklahoma’s education system, and empowering families and children with the ability to attend the quality school of their choice."

The Oklahoma Action Fund made a major investment to support the six candidates, two of whom are Democrats, and made a significant impact in the election’s results.

Oklahoma Federation for Children supported candidates are: John Pfeiffer (R-HD 38), John Paul Jordan (R-HD 43), Casey Murdock (R-HD 61), Chuck Strohm (R-HD 69), Shane Stone (D-HD 89), and George Young (D-HD 99)

Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Federation for Children released a poll that found overwhelming support for educational choice, especially among Republican primary voters.

One race in particular where educational choice became a decisive issue was in the campaign for the 69th House District where Chuck Strohm successfully defeated the front runner, Melissa Abdo. Abdo, an opponent of school choice, sued to block parents with special needs children from obtaining access to the state’s school choice program. The race serves as a reminder that parents value educational choice and will not tolerate candidates who put special interests ahead of the needs of children.

Bob Sullivan
"Tonight’s results demonstrate that Oklahoma citizens are supportive and embrace educational choice," said Bob Sullivan, Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. "And, the Oklahoma Federation for Children serves as the voice and vehicle for parents who are rising up to challenge the status quo and want are elected officials who believe in the power of educational choice."

Edmond school bus driver faces sex crime charges

The Oklahoman has the story.

Quote of the day

"We all think we know how to run education because we went to school. Well, there are definite ways to teach, definite ways to learn, and those who spend their lives learning it and practicing it ought to be the ones we rely on for this."
State Rep. Ann Coody, a former teacher, saying the vast majority of Oklahomans "are not former educators"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Midwest City and Tulsa: Pizza in the park!

The Oklahoma chapter of is hosting two family "schools of choice" picnics next month. According to event organizers:
Meet other families that learn online and attend area charter schools. Come to hear about the latest school choice news while your family enjoys "pizza at the park"! Join us on Thursday, September 25 (Midwest City) and Friday, September 26 (Tulsa) for our annual events. The cost is free but please RSVP at

Pizza at each of the events is complimentary and will be provided by for students, parents, and teachers. Families are encouraged to bring their own appropriate drink. For more information, please contact
The Oklahoma chapter of is an alliance of parents that supports and defends parents' rights to access the best public school options for their children. The coalition supports the creation of public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, tuition scholarship programs, open enrollment policies, and other innovative education programs. Additionally, we advocate for free and equal access without restrictions to these public schools for all children.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One in four families has utilized school choice

"The practice of school choice has now spread to such an extent that more than one-fourth of all American families have a school-age child who has been educated elsewhere than in a traditional public school," write Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson, and Martin R. West, reporting on the results of the 2014 Education Next/Harvard PEPG poll.
Many American families are ignoring the bright lines routinely drawn between traditional public schools on the one hand and charter schools, private schools, and home schooling on the other. We asked respondents who live with children aged 6 to 17 to report whether those children have ever attended a traditional public school, a charter school, or a private school, as well as whether they have been home schooled. No fewer than 26% percent of respondents living with school-age children have used an alternative to traditional public schools at some point in those children’s education. ...

Teachers make just as much use of these alternatives as the public at large. About 28% of teachers living with school-age children have used or currently use private schools, charter schools, or home schooling alongside or in lieu of traditional public schools. The most heavily used alternative for teachers is private school (19%), but 8% and 7% use charter schools and home schooling, respectively. School choice is no longer an abstract concept. It is part and parcel of the American educational fabric, directly affecting 26% of all Americans living with school-age children.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oklahoma online students log in next week to start school year

School resumes next week at Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, a public online school. Read more here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

'Keep choice at the center of the education debate'

Great advice from AFP state director John Tidwell. I encourage you to read his Tulsa World column here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why we shouldn’t raise teacher pay

"Even without the tenure obstacle, putting the best teachers in the classroom requires more than raising teacher pay," Jason Richwine writes. "In fact, just that could drive down teacher quality."