Montana parents’ rights deserve protection | Columnists
“The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Montana.” It’s a resolution 2011 expressed by the Montana Legislature. Lawmakers who voted to pass the measure include current Attorney General Austin Knudsen, Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale.
Supporting parents’ right to – “ahem” – parent seems like common sense. But just a month ago, eight public school officials found Arntzen’s support for parents’ rights in education to write a letter of “lack of confidence” in his leadership. A response letter praising Arntzen’s support for parents was signed by more than 500 citizens, including many parents with children in public schools.
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What happened to pit parents against public school officials? One reason is that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear to many parents for the first time that Montana’s public school system does not afford them basic rights to direct their child’s education.
For example, when Billings Schools announcement a mask mandate last fall, parents who disagreed with the policy had little recourse and resorted to staging protests. And now that the schools are planning to be mask-optional in 2022, the roles have turned. What about parents who want everyone to wear masks?
Parents have the option of enrolling their children in a virtual learning platform, but the reality is that not all students learn well through this method. Unless parents are wealthy enough to pay for an alternative school or lucky enough to find a support system to facilitate home schooling, they are stuck with no control over what happens to their child’s education. . Meanwhile, their hard-earned tax dollars continue to fund a system that doesn’t do what they think is right for their child.
Last year, Bozeman’s parents received national attention when they succeeded in reversing a proposed school policy, they saw it as advancing the controversial critical race theory. However, the victory came after public outcry and months of negotiations with the school district by dogged parents willing to go through lengthy and contentious meetings to ensure the school adopted a policy they supported.
The hard truth for Montana moms and dads is that little stands in the way of a public school system implementing whatever curriculum standards or policies they deem appropriate, no matter how strong their objections. Without the freedom to choose another option, parents lack real control over the direction of their child’s education.
But Montana’s unique public school system doesn’t give parents the freedom to choose. Montana is lagging behind States that embrace freedom of education, allowing parents to exercise control over their student’s share of public education funding and to choose from a variety of education options that best meet the needs of their child. In fact, Montana public school officials called the very idea of giving parents the right to opt out of school district policies and find “dangerous and absurd” alternatives.
In their condemnation of freedom of choice, public school officials suggest that parents’ right to direct their children’s education applies in practice only to wealthy parents who can afford to seek alternatives to the school system. public.
The purpose of the 2011 legislative resolution mentioned above was to call for the rights of parents to be explicitly enshrined in our Constitution. Just ten years ago, legislators felt that our laws, our courts and our public education system did not adequately protect the rights of parents. It now seems more than ever that parents’ rights deserve to be protected.
Kendall Cotton is the President and CEO of the Frontier Institute, a Helena think tank dedicated to breaking down government barriers so all Montanans can prosper.