RNC Approves Resolution Addressing Parental Rights Regarding Sex Ed

The Republican National Committee at their Summer Meeting in Austin, TX passed a resolution that protects students from potentially unsuitable content by supporting a parent’s right to grant prior written consent for sex education.

Cynthia Dunbar, Republican National Committeewoman for Virginia, introduced a resolution to protect public school children by requiring parental notification and approval for all human sexuality instruction, and that student participation requires parents to opt their student in instead of having to opt their student out.

Liberty Counsel which announced the RNC’s passage of the resolution in a press release wrote:

Many state laws and local school policies usually require that schools notify parents that their children will be taught human sexuality and provide access to review the materials. Then parents have the opportunity to notify the school that their child is to be exempt from the instruction and needs to be given an alternative.

However, these policies have been manipulated in many cases as districts do not always provide a complete description of the materials, make access difficult, and include the “opt out” forms with the flood of other permission slips and forms that parents have to fill out at the beginning of the school year. As a result, parents do not have effective notice of what their children will be exposed to or chance to opt them out.  The “opt out” laws are also usually limited to “human sexuality instruction” or “sex ed” and do not cover other subjects in which the materials would be offered.

Our readers probably have differing opinions about whether schools should provide sex education, and what should be covered if they do. I hope we have a consensus, however, that parents should have the final say and they should have a full notification of what the class entails and what materials are used.

Read the resolution below:

Will Utah Fight for Parental Control After Feds Deny ESSA Opt-Out Waiver?

So much for returning educational autonomy to the states.

In his inaugural address, President Trump sounded a clarion call for transferring power from the federal government to the people:

[T]oday we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.  What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Fine words, but they haven’t been put into action with respect to education policy. 

The most recent example comes from Utah. In early May the Utah State Board of Education requested a waiver, which U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is statutorily empowered to grant, from a federal testing requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). That mandate is that states include at least 95% of their students in the statewide tests. This provision is intended to ensuring the reliability of federally mandated accountability measures (notice how often the words “require” and “mandate” come up in discussions of the supposedly state-empowering ESSA). If its testing participation rate drops below 95%, the state must count every non-tested student as zero or non-proficient. Although highly misleading, this calculation ratchets down the state’s “academic achievement indicator” and can result in various negative federal consequences.

Utah requested the waiver because state law specifically protects the rights of parents to opt their children out of statewide assessments. It also forbids the State Board of Education from imposing negative consequences on schools or employees because of the number of opt-outs. 

One reason for the rising opt-out numbers is discontent with the SAGE (Student Assessment for Growth and Excellence) test. SAGE was developed for Utah by the American Institutes for Research, which is not an academic-assessment company but rather a behavioral-research organization. In increasing numbers, parents have concluded they don’t want their children subjected to problem-riddled testing that hasn’t been proven academically valid – especially when, as shown by Dr. Christopher Tienken, Common Core testing is designed more to centralize control over education policy than to benefit student learning.

The clash here, then, was between parents’ inherent right to govern their children’s education and indeed protect them from harm, as explicitly protected by state law, and federal mandates. Guess which won?

On May 31 the U.S. Department of Education (USED) denied the request for a waiver. USED found that a waiver wouldn’t “advance academic achievement” as required by the statutory waiver provision, because failure to force test participation would mean not all students were subjected to federally incentivized standards and federally mandated tests. 

Significantly, the denial letter came from Jason Botel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, appointed to that position by DeVos. Mr. Botel is a shining example of the problematic personnel she has brought to the department – he publicly praised Common Core (which DeVos’s boss vigorously opposes), he supports a strong federal role in education, and he has spoken favorably of the radical group Black Lives Matter. His pro-federal-power predilections are clear in this dismissal of the Utah waiver request. 

Utah isn’t the only state to be slapped down by federal bureaucrats over the test-participation mandate. Colorado suffered the same fate until it reached a compromise with USED in early May, essentially establishing two different accountability systems – one state, one federal. And rather than fight for state and parental rights, Colorado educrats agreed to come up with more incentives to lure students into the statewide assessments.

The question is, will the Utah State Board of Education wilt under federal pressure, or will it stand and fight? At a hearing on this issue, local school board member Wendy Hart pointed out what’s at stake here – if the State Board backs down, thus forcing more students to undergo behavioral assessment aligned with Common Core, it will fail to uphold not only state law and the 10th Amendment to the federal Constitution but also the fundamental right of parents to educate and protect their children. 

Utah law is clear about who’s in charge of education: “A student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian.” The Utah Supreme Court has identified “parents’ inherent right and authority to rear their own children” as “fundamental to our society and . . . basic to our constitutional order. . . .” In other words, what President Trump promised at his inauguration has actual statutory and judicial force in Utah.

Will the State Board of Education stand on these principles? Will Betsy DeVos? If not, both of them should be called to account. This should be a YUGE issue in Utah political races in November.

New York School Makes Students Verbally Refuse Test

Photo credit: Joe Mabel (CC-by-SA 3.0)

Freeport Public School District located in Long Island in New York does not allow parents to opt students out. Instead students have to verbally tell a teacher as the test is set before them that they refuse to take the test.

WABC-TV (ABC 7) reports:

Parents say they sent letters to the Freeport School District last week saying their children would be opting out of the test, but that the district sent home a letter that told parents their children must verbally refuse to take the test when it is put in front of them.

“If your child, under your direction, refuses to take the exam once it is placed in front of them, the proctor will mark the student as a ‘refusal,’ and your child will be allowed to read quietly and independently in accordance with state regulation,” the letter read.

Parent Howard Colton said he wrote the same opt-out letter to the district last year, and his children did not have to verbally refuse the test. Instead, they were taken out of the classroom to read and study.

Parents say they have never received that letter from the school district in years past.

“You’re now taking a child and telling them to make a decision of an adult and they don’t have the capacity to do that. That in my book is blatantly illegal,” said Colton.

This is simply outrageous. It’s one thing to expect this out of a high school junior, it’s quite another to expect a third grader to do this. Schools need to abide by the stated wishes of parents – period. This is simply a bully technique which should not be tolerated.

New York Teachers Perform Parody Targeting Common Core & Cuomo

Some teachers and administrators for the Bay Shore School District in Bay Shore, NY sung a light-hearted parody targeting Common Core, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and opt-outs. The song titled “Welcome Back Bay Shore Teachers” was set to the tune of “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease. They performed this during the Superintendent’s Conference Day held the day before school started in the district.

Here are some of the lyrics….

Summer’s over, had me a blast.

Summer’s over, happened so fast.

Yesterday, I’m in the Keys.

Yesterday, I was at ease.

Summer’s gone, now back to school.

Oh no now think about Common Core.

Common Core… Common Core…

Cuomo isn’t our friend.

Common Core… Common Core..

When does his 2nd term end?

Governor Cuomo sure likes to spend.

He proposes cuts till the end.

He struts his stuff in Albany!

Treats New York like his property!

Summer’s gone, now back to school.

Oh no how I hate Conference Day.

Conference Day. Conference Day.

Joe Bond (their superintendent) seems kind of cool.

Conference Day. Conference Day.

Not as cool as the pool.

Administrators drone on and on.

All their speeches cause me to yawn.

I hope somebody pulls the alarm.

A fire drill won’t cause no harm.

Summer’s gone, now back to school.

Oh no no here come all of the stats.

Here’s a stat. Here’s a stat.

Oh the numbers don’t lie.

Here’s a stat. Here’s a stat.

Tell us what they imply?

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Shoo Da Bop Bop

Yeah!

SAT scores are highest throughout.

By the thousands they opted out.

SLO’s don’t mean a thing!

The teachers know how to make the kids sing!

Summer’s gone, now back to school.

Oh thank God, I think we’ve come to the end!

Wake me up. Wake me up.

When we get to the end.

Wake me up. Wake me up.

Did my snoring offend!?

If you haven’t seen if invest a few minutes, it’s fun to watch. Kudos to whoever came up with this.

Buffalo Schools Punishing Students for Opting Out

Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY

Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY

Carol Burris, former New York high school principle and executive director for the Network for Public Education, in a guest post on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog shared how students were facing consequences for their parents decision to opt them out of standardized assessments.

It’s an attempt to quash the opt-out movement.

Recently, Florida opt-out parents accused their districts of retaliation by issuing threats of retaining young children, or excluding older students from early college programs.  A California high school principal went so faras to deny opt-out students parking privileges, participation in senior activities and off campus passes.

Now it appears that one of the largest school districts in New York State, the Buffalo School District, has denied students entrance to its selective schools based on their parents decision to opt them out.  But a small group of families and a member of the Buffalo Board of Education are pushing back.

Buffalo residents, Gretchen and Jim Cercone, are career educators. Gretchen is a middle school principal in a first-ring suburb of the city, and Jim is a professor of education.  Staunch believers in public schools, they entered their two sons in the Buffalo Public Schools hoping that would be where they would remain through graduation.

Last year, the Cercones decided to join the more than 220,000 New York parents who refused to allow their children to take the New York State English Language Arts and math assessments. For the Cercones, it was a matter of conscience. They made that decision after exhausting all remedies—from writing letters to attending forums—hoping to convince the New York State Education Department to abandon the Grades 3-8 Common Core tests.  As educators, they knew the tests were flawed, and they considered opting out to be the only way to be heard.

A few days before last year’s state assessments, they received a letter stating that a student’s admissions profile for the district’s selective schools could be “impacted” by a lack of Common Core scores. The Cercones decided to test the system to see whether the district was complying with New York State education law regarding the use of Common Core test scores by having their fifth grader apply to the city’s most competitive schools—Olmsted and City Honors.

What the family uncovered was startling.  Not only were the state Common Core tests being used in a way they possibly violates the law, the district, without the passage of policy, had been quietly giving private school students access to the competitive schools without state test scores, even as opt-out students were shut out.

Read the rest.

This is appalling, and must be stopped immediately.

Data Privacy & Opt-Out Bills Before Arizona Senate

arizona-state-flag

A Stop Common Core activist in Arizona sent an email about two different bills being heard in the Arizona Legislature.

HB 2088 passed the Arizona House 24 to 2 on March 1st, and will be heard in the Arizona Senate Education Committee. The bill requires parental notification and written parental consent for any survey that becomes a part of their student’s permanent record and that asks for personally identifiable identification.

Update: This bill passed out of committee.

A parental assessment opt-out bill, SB 1455, failed to pass the Arizona Senate on a 11 to 18 vote on March 7. Senator Begay has filed a motion to reconsider that was carried so the bill gets a second chance. Arizona parents and activists should contact members of the Senate and urge them to vote yes on this bill.

Remind Senators that seven other states have opt-out language and have not lost federal funding, and the Every Student Succeeds Act leaves the option of allow parents to opt-out to the states.  Apparently scare tactics have been used on the senators which were effective when they last voted. Ultimately parents have the natural right to opt their children out of assessments as they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their student’s education, this is just codifying it.

ESEA Reauthorization Conference Report Advances to Final Vote in the Senate

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

The ESEA reauthorization conference report, S.1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) advanced in the U.S. Senate on a 84 to 12 cloture vote. The vote took place after an hour-and-a-half of “debate.”

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that the final vote is scheduled for tomorrow – Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 10:45a (EST).  He inferred during his comments following the cloture vote that the bill’s passage is pretty much in the bag and then proceeded to pat himself and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on the back.  It was nauseating.

Yesterday, Politico reported that outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the House vote last week “gave him hope for democracy.”

It did the exact opposite for me, and today’s vote tarnished my view even further. How can we have a healthy, functional representative democracy when our elected representatives in the U.S House and U.S. Senate vote on a bill that is over 1000 pages a few days after it is made public. The House voted on this two days after the conference report was released. The Senate had one week.

One week is not long enough or somebody would have called Alexander on his B.S. that this bill allows parents to opt-out and that it would get rid of Common Core.  It does neither.  As far as “fixing” No Child Left Behind how can one say that with a straight face. It doesn’t even do that.

Here are the Senators who voted no on cloture. Please take time to thank them as they took a stand against ESEA reauthorization.

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), James Risch (R-ID), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA).

Apparently U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were too busy running for President to come back to DC to vote.

Opt-Outs Threaten Schools’ “Blue Ribbon” Status

1024px-National_Blue_Ribbon_Schools_sealNewsday reports that assessment opt-outs threaten several schools “Blue Ribbon” status in New York.

The actual awards, however, normally would be based largely on results from the latest round of testing in April.

As a result of the test opt-outs, 12 of 19 schools nominated statewide for 2015 Blue Ribbon awards could be found ineligible, state and local education leaders said. The reason, officials said, is that those schools did not achieve the 95 percent student participation rate in this year’s testing that federal rules typically require.

“The Blue Ribbon is something that you earn,” said Kerry Dunne, principal of McVey Elementary, who has helped coordinate a statewide effort to persuade federal officials to adjust their rules. “Our children have worked so hard. Now, for reasons beyond their control and beyond our control, they’re going to be denied that. I really don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Again this is an example of how overly dependent educrats are on assessments.  The U.S. Department of Education who bestows the awards says, “The National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing an entry or flying overhead is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.”

No, all the symbol means is that the school has great test takers. That’s it.  What does the school receive? Absolutely nothing other than getting to display the flag and call itself a “blue ribbon” school.  Which is good for realtors, an honor for teachers and administrators, but does absolutely nothing for students.

I wouldn’t hold my breath to see federal officials change the rules. This is just another way to “punish” schools for the opt-outs and to pressure/shame parents into not exercising their rights.

Survey: Where Does Your U.S. Representative Stand on Education?

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

We would like you to gather some information for us.  We would like to know where your U.S. Representative stands on education policy.  If you don’t know please take time to contact them with the questions below:

  1. Does your U.S. Representative support Common Core?
  2. Does your U.S. Representative support a federal testing mandate?
  3. Does your U.S. Representative believe parents have the right to opt their student out of assessments?
  4. Does your U.S. Representative support student data collection?
  5. Did your U.S. Representative vote for H.R. 5, the Student Success Act?

The first four questions the choices are: yes, no or not sure.  The “not sure” answer is that your U.S. Representative is not sure, not whether you are sure or not.  If you are not sure go find out!

We would like to be able to share this as a resource later on so your participation and research is appreciated!  You can fill the survey out here or use the form below.

U.S. Senate Votes Down Parental Opt-Outs

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) offered an amendment to S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, that would require schools in states receiving Title I funds to notify parents about all assessments that are given, the dates they are going to be given, and the subjects they cover within a minimum of 14 days of the assessment being given.  According to the language states are also required to allow parents to opt their student out of federally mandated assessments.

Here is the pertinent language:

In general.–Notwithstanding the requirement described in section 1111(b)(3)(B)(vi), or any other provision of law, upon the request of the parent of a child made in accordance with subclause (II), and for any reason or no reason at all stated by the parent, a State shall allow the child to opt out of the assessments described in this paragraph. Such an opt-out, or any action related to that opt-out, may not be used by the Secretary, the State, any State or local agency, or any school leader or employee as the basis for any corrective action, penalty, or other consequence against the parent, the child, any school leader or employee, or the school.

Lee also outlines the process.

Form of parental opt-out request.–Unless a State has implemented an alternative process for parents to opt out of assessments as described in this subparagraph, a parent shall request to have their child opt out of an assessment by submitting such request to their child’s school in writing.

The amendment also says states may implement their own opt-out criteria for additional state and/or local assessments.

The U.S. Senate voted this down 32 to 64.  Let that sink in, 64 U.S. Senators voted against a basic, natural parental right.

Here are the U.S. Senators who should be thrown out on their keisters next time they are up for reelection:

Alexander (R-TN)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burr (R-NC)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Capito (R-WV)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Franken (D-MN)
Gardner (R-CO)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)