A new proposal in Minnesota would create a constitutional provision that “all children have a fundamental right to a quality public education,” which could threaten the natural and constitutional right of parents to decide what form of education is best for their child.

While the availability of a free public education has been a hallmark of American society since the eighteenth century, so has the freedom to choose whether to use it or to select a private or home education for one’s family.

Today, a few progressive academics like James Dwyer posit that children belong to the state, and that the government must regulate all forms of education. They want to ensure that children are raised not only to know the information but also to think the thoughts that the government has approved for them.

Radicals have been saying this for a long time, but when their extremist ideas become proposed new laws, we have to fight back.

Precedent Favors Parents

You and I know that this radical notion directly conflicts with settled Supreme Court precedent. 

In 1925, the court confronted an Oregon law that required all students to attend public schools only. The court’s ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters was clear:

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

And on this point, even the international community agrees (with the troubling exception of several members of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child). In response to the rise and success of the Hitler Youth movement, the United Nations in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 26, which holds that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

But Supreme Court precedent and international declarations notwithstanding, Minnesota House File 3658 and Senate File 3977 seek to challenge this rule.

Unprecedented and Unnecessary

By establishing that “all children have a fundamental right to a quality public education” (emphasis added), this constitutional amendment would open the door to legally challenging a parent’s decision to use any other method to teach their child.

Never in our nation’s history has the government had the authority to decide what form of education children must receive, and we have no desire to see Minnesota lay claim to it now. It is parents, not government, who know their child best and are most qualified to make beneficial decisions  on the child’s behalf.

The stated aims of the proponents of H.F. 3658 are admirable. They would demand that their state live up to its obligation to provide quality, effective education for those who use the public schools. A lot of public resources go into paying for schools; the people should be able to require accountability for the way those dollars are spent and the quality of the product their children receive.

But as Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Michael Donnelly testified before the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee last week, “there is currently no constitutional or statutory obstacle to achieving [these] goals.”

If the state wants to make their public schools better, they already have the authority to do it. They don’t need to rob parents of their right to choose alternative forms of education for their child.

Catastrophic Potential

In fact, the amendment, if adopted, would have the opposite effect of its stated purpose. Should the change result in the elimination of alternative forms of education, the public schools, robbed of any form of competition, would have even less incentive to improve the quality of education they provide.

Even if the schools got worse than ever, students or parents would have nowhere else to go.

We don’t really expect that would be the result (though it could be). Rather, we anticipate years of legal wrangling and court challenges until a federal court, on the strong precedent of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, sends the Minnesota constitutional language to the dustbin.

But do Minnesota lawmakers really want the future of their society to hinge on the decision of perhaps one swing-vote judge? That is not how good policy decisions should be made.

And what happens in the meantime? Either children are forced into public schools against their parents’ convictions, or parents defy the law and create an opportunity for social services to come knocking. Once again, children are the ones hurt by anti-parent policies.

Parent Champions Rise to the Challenge?

We must fight these bills now to keep bad policy from hurting good families.

Thankfully, we are off to a good start.

We’re grateful for Michael Donnelly and others who testified against this resolution last week, and we are already standing with them to oppose this dangerous proposal. We are also honored to have been represented in the hearing by the many active parental rights champions who turned out to lend their support to Donnelly’s position.

But vigilance is not cheap, and ParentalRights.org is completely donor funded—supported by parental rights champions just like you. To help fight this and similar threats, could you make an investment in our ongoing efforts through your gift today?

Further, if you live in Minnesota, please take a moment to contact your lawmakers and urge them to stand against this proposed constitutional amendment. You can easily connect with your senator through the VoterVoice tool available on this page on HSLDA’s website.

Parents, not the state, have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. We will oppose any provision in any state that would threaten to rob our families of this right.

Thank you for standing with us as we oppose government overreach, intended or otherwise, in Minnesota and throughout the United States.

Sincerely,

Michael Ramey
Executive Director