Parents need educational choices to protect values

Montana is one of the least populated states of the lower 48, but what comes out of it reaches the farthest corners of the United States.

During National School Choice Week 2022, parents should watch what’s coming out of the Big Sky State.

A 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of parents choosing private schools for their children and a 2021 state attorney general’s opinion protecting American ideals of freedom and opportunity in class provide a boost to parents trying to meet their child’s unique learning needs.

Montana offers a K-12 private scholarship program that provides tax credits for charitable contributions to nonprofit scholarship organizations.

But state officials had prevented parents from choosing religious schools. The court ruled in 2020 that such schools could not be excluded.

A year after the ruling, commentators would call 2021 “the year of school choice” as lawmakers in 19 states created or expanded public and private school learning options for students.

During COVID, many parents have struggled with mask mandates and new vaccination requirements, as well as heavily political classroom content, while watching student achievement plummet. Families began to ask themselves: does our child’s school reflect what we believe is best? If not, what can we do about it?

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen recently said in an email response to questions about parents’ educational choices, “The school closures that have occurred over the past two years have been one of the biggest catalysts for parent involvement and the school choice movement across the country. .”

Some school officials tolerate or even encourage dismissive attitudes toward parents. In Pennsylvania, a school board member recently wrote a comment telling parents he “doesn’t work for them.” Parents are free to “ventilate their spleens” to school boards but “listening to your repeated distortions of the facts is nauseating”.

Writing in CNN last fall, New York State’s 2021 Teacher of the Year said school board meetings have become the place where “frightened and angry people come down” to make demands on teachers. members of the council “without filter or grace”.

Knudsen of Montana insists that “parents should be able to choose the educational environment that best suits their children and their values.” His inclusion of “values” is remarkable because these intimate beliefs have become the beating heart of National School Choice Week.

Parents have faced extended school closures due to COVID, controversial lesson plans and bullying tactics from interest groups. Teachers’ unions have been pushing for schools to remain closed to in-person learning as student grades have suffered, with increases in Ds and Fs across the country. The National School Board Association colluded with the White House last fall to try to intimidate parents by criticizing people who spoke at board meetings.

Parents seeking quality learning options for their children today find themselves between their desire for their students to succeed and their belief that their ideas and values, religious or otherwise, should always matter. And that they shouldn’t have to set aside their beliefs when choosing how and where their child will learn or raising their concerns with a school board.

Jonathan Butcher is a Will Skillman Scholar in Education at the Heritage Foundation. This column is provided by Tribune News Service.

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