By FRC's Dan Hart
With school shutdowns, logistical complexities with online classes, and rampant uncertainty due to the coronavirus, it's been a monumentally difficult year for students, their parents, and teachers. But there has been a silver lining in all of this: more and more parents are having their eyes opened to the leftist agenda that has embedded itself in many of our nation's public schools.
Just last week, a school board in Fairfax County in northern Virginia unanimously decided to remove the names of Thomas Jefferson and George Mason from the city's elementary and high schools, despite the fact that the local community is strongly in favor of keeping the names.
Now, parents are taking a stand against public school identity politics and indoctrination by removing their kids and finding better alternatives like private schools and homeschooling. In fact, over the past year, the Fairfax County school system has seen a 5 percent drop in enrollment, which means that nearly 9,000 students will no longer be exposed to the leftist propaganda and sexualization that has run rampant.
Yesterday, Maria Keffler, Co-founder of the Arlington Parent Coalition and Partner and Media Representative at Partners for Ethical Care joined Tony on "Washington Watch" to discuss the growing dissatisfaction among parents with educational establishments that are failing to educate and striving to indoctrinate.
"I think more parents are starting to wake up to it and see what's going on," she said. "Arlington Public Schools is down about 3,000 students from what was expected this year. I think that is one of the silver linings of the coronavirus -- that parents are seeing what's going on and they're not happy about it and they shouldn't be."
The question is, will public schools begin to listen to the concerns of parents when their tax revenue falls due to declining enrollment? The answer appears to be "no."
"The school boards are simply not concerned," Keffler observed. "They're simply not concerned with the student's needs. They're not concerned with the parents' concerns. In Fairfax County, in 2018, they voted to add the LGBTQ curriculum to the Fairfax County Family Life Education Curriculum. They received 941 emails against approving that curriculum, only 192 for. And they just went right ahead and did it. They're not listening to parents."
Not only are public schools not listening to the concerns of parents, they are also failing in their primary duty: education. "Students are falling off the radar," Keffler pointed out. "Students are falling behind ... As long ago as 2015, Pew Research said among developed nations, the U.S. ranks 24th on science and reading and 39th in math. But it's not new that the public schools are failing -- [they've] been failing for a while."
And when taxpayer dollars are being ineffectively used, it's time to redirect the money elsewhere. "I think we do need school choice," Keffler said. "I think parents need to have the money that the federal government gives to public schools to go with the child. If the parents take the child to a private school, to homeschool, to a military school -- that money needs to go with the students."
Keffler also underscored another enormously concerning trend in public schools: the violation of the First Amendment free speech rights of students and teachers. "I just received from [an] Arlington County teacher the new guidelines for transgender students. And what really disturbed me is a clause in there that says that students or teachers who refuse to comply [with] policies such as enforced pronouns and deceiving parents about their own children's sexuality and their gender ID will be disciplined."
But despite all of these disturbing trends and coronavirus shutdowns, parents should take heart. The multitude of educational choices and resources that are available continue to expand and grow. "Homeschooling has had a big boom this year," Keffler noted. "The HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, has written and talked about the thousands and thousands of parents who've been calling them for assistance." She went on to describe the success she has had in homeschooling her own three children.
Clearly, it's time to rethink public education. "[The public school system is] a monopoly," Keffler said. "Parents don't have another choice and you don't negotiate with a monopoly. You have to break a monopoly. And the only way we're going to break the public school monopoly is by taking away their students."