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A Teacher’s Perspective on School Choice (It’s Parental Choice)

The liberal media pounced on Betsy DeVos after her confirmation hearing last week, alleging that Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education is a radical Christian who supports “dismantling” public schools.

I teach at one of those private, for-profit, Christian schools that Democrats and their allies in the media are vilifying as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s youth and education system.

Although those opposed to DeVos’ nomination would like to convince you that private and charter schools are designed to serve only affluent whites, in reality, my school’s student body is majority-minority. Many of these kids come from broken homes on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

This isn’t as rare as the media would lead you to believe. Scholarships and voucher programs, whether privately or publicly funded, allow children to succeed in schools their families would otherwise have been unable to afford. In fact, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that voucher programs improve racial integration in schools.

Many of my students were unable to achieve their full potential in their neighborhood public schools. Their parents were growing frustrated with what their schools were teaching, and were growing worried about their school’s culture of drugs, promiscuity, and insubordination.

In my experience, low-income and minority families who are given the opportunity to attend schools like the one where I teach are so thankful their kids are able to receive a quality education in a safe and edifying environment.

Some of my students have shared with me their experiences attending local public schools. One of my black students carried a gun with him to school as an early teenager to keep himself safe from gang activity. Drug dogs sweep the halls of local public high schools, which also sometimes use metal detectors to check students for weapons.

Apart from concerns about their children’s safety, many families also feel uneasy about the content of their children’s education. In Washington State, for example, schools are now teaching elementary school children that they can choose their gender. Sexual education curricula teach students to use methods of birth control many parents find morally objectionable. And some teachers, schools, and educational standards distort history and science to promote their pet political agendas.

Many of the most vocal critics of DeVos and the educational philosophy she represents contend that the very existence of private schools with different educational philosophies threatens public schools and our social order. These critics oppose any system of school choice that allows parents to choose the school they want to educate their children.

Contrary to the baseless claims of her critics, Betsy DeVos has never supported “dismantling” the public school system. Instead, she is simply working to ensure that those low- and middle-income families who find their local public school insufficient can have the same opportunities as wealthier families that are able pursue other means of education.

Providing more alternatives to public schools wouldn’t necessarily cause an exodus of children from public to private schools, nor would it require that public schools be “dismantled.”

If, in fact, most public schools offer an education superior to that of comparable private schools, families will decide to leave their kids in the public school to which they’ve been assigned. On the other hand, families who worry about their son or daughter attending public school would be able to move him or her to a school that better meets their needs and reflects their values.

No school or educational philosophy is perfect, and a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t really fit all families and students. That’s why choice is so necessary and important.

I’m especially thankful schools like the one at which I teach exist to provide families with an alternative to unsafe, failing schools that teach an educational philosophy antithetical to traditional Judeo-Christian values. Voucher programs like those supported by Betsy DeVos enable families to pursue whatever means of education works best for their children – and that’s something we should all celebrate.

 

Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.

After Fetal Brains Sold by UW, FPIW Files Public Records Request in Indiana

FPIW filed a public records request with Indiana University (IU) on Thursday morning, seeking information related to IU’s relationship with the University of Washington Birth Defects Research Laboratory (UWBDRL).

Earlier this week, FPIW learned that UWBDRL sold aborted baby brains to Indiana University on at least two separate occasions dating back to 2013.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-8-28-30-am

Public records recovered in Indiana show an invoice from UWBDRL charging Indiana University for two aborted fetal brains.

Some critics have questioned whether UWBDRL may have violated federal human trafficking laws that prohibit the sale of fetal tissue.  But this development is especially concerning considering the outstanding questions about UWBDRL’s business arrangement with Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington State.

You can read FPIW’s public records request letter here.


FPIW is being sued by Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry following the filing of a public records request with the University of Washington. We must know what financial arrangements UW has with Planned Parenthood, and we won’t stop until the people get the answers they are entitled to.  We’re in this battle. Will you fight alongside us?

 

 

New Video: Why Christians Must Remain Vigilant and Involved

Last week’s election results may have brought a bit of relief for Christians concerned about the government’s assaults on their religious freedom, but it’s critically important — now more than ever — that we remain vigilant in keeping our leaders accountable to their promises, and to the values we all hold dear.

In case you missed it, we released a new video last week, entitled, “Why Christians Must Remain Vigilant and Involved,” featuring Pastor Brant Bosserman from Trinitas Presbyterian Church in Everett.

Two Bad Reasons Christians Won’t Get Involved in This Election

We are now less than two weeks from the election. While there is a lot that people are fighting about, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that we’re ready for it to be over; in a dead man walking kind of way.

Within the church, people are disagreeing as well. One side says Donald Trump is too bad of a person to vote for, while the other side says that we have to vote for him because to allow Hillary to become President is a death sentence for the Supreme Court and many of our civil liberties.

But there’s another voice that sometimes chimes in as a kind of referee encouraging everyone to relax. And they have some really spiritual arguments for why we shouldn’t be that worried about it.

So here are my two favorite “Christian” reasons for being ambivalent.

  1. God is in Charge Anyway

This is basically the sovereignty of God argument. It says that, “God is still going to be God regardless of who is elected, so chill out.” From a strictly logical sense, this argument is the fallacy known as the non sequitur. Which means the conclusion does not follow logically from the premise.

It’s like saying, “Burritos are yummy so I should buy a new car.” Burritos are in fact yummy, but my decision to buy a car should be determined more by things like need and my ability to afford one. Burritos are going to be yummy regardless.

It is true that God is in charge, but our responsibilities and obligations are given to us independent of that fact. After all, God is also in charge if I neglect to pay my mortgage, abandon my family, or set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a city.

Indeed, if we think it significant that God is always in charge, we should contemplate the implication of the command to occupy until he returns (Luke 19:13), seek the welfare of the city to which he has sent us (Jeremiah 29:7), and cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. (2 Cor 10:5).

Of course God’s sovereignty is always relevant to our lives, it’s just not always instructive to our choices and should never be an excuse for passivity.

For those of us who are more inclined to panic at the current state of affairs and live in a state of perpetual fear, the fact that God is good and always in charge should comfort us and allow us to trust Him and be confident regardless of the circumstances.

But ultimately, it should lead us to be more interested in His purposes for us in our current circumstances, not less.

  1. Persecution will be good for us.

This argument says essentially that, “I know things are bad and getting worse, but maybe shouldn’t do anything about it. After all, I’ve read Revelation and the decline is inevitable. Maybe we should embrace the loss of religious freedom and be ok with the government taking control of our churches, universities, non-profits, businesses, and families. After all, a little persecution will be good for us.”

What would your life be like today if our Founding Father’s took this position?

The first reason we know this is a bad argument is that no one would be willing to make it outside America.

Raise your hand if you’re willing to tell a Christian brother in Syria, Iran, or Nigeria how much you’re looking forward to experiencing a little persecution so our churches can flourish.

I’m sure we’d all become a bit sheepish at the sight of the machete scar across his face.

We should be prepared to obey regardless of what happens in the future, but that should never become indifference to what happens in the future, particularly when we are in a position to influence it.

Remember, if persecution happens in any form, that means bad things are happening to real people. In the Middle East, parents are forced to watch their kids be executed unless they recant their faith. In America, businesses are forced to shut down. Different degrees of bad, but still bad.

The church has been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). We were not created to allow some harm because it will be good for us.

Of course God can take even the worst circumstances and make something beautiful from it, but if bad things start happening to our friends, neighbors, and churches, it should be despite our best efforts, not because of our passivity.

In 2014, it is estimated that only 20 million of the 60 million evangelicals in America filled out a ballot. That’s a lot of influence for good that was never leveraged.

Sometimes the reason we aren’t engaged is that we don’t know how to. We’ve tried to help in this election cycle by providing a voter guide that will help you identify which candidates share your worldview and value system. You can also access it by texting your zip code to 77039.

But sometimes we aren’t engaged because we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t need to be.

There are many things people within the church can disagree about this election season, including what to do with Trump v. Clinton. But we should all be able to agree that we won’t be afraid, we won’t be indifferent to evil, and we don’t quit because it’s challenging.

Why? Because we all want to be like Jesus.

Washington School District Pays More Than $14,000 for Transgender Training and Education

Through a public records request fulfilled this month, FPIW has learned that the Snohomish School District made payments totaling $14,100 to Gender Diversity, a Seattle-based group known to advocate transgenderism to children.

The payments were made in exchange for a series of training sessions and consultations, provided by Gender Diversity’s transgender Executive Director Aidan Key.

What Does This Mean for Your Children?

The District’s relationship with Key and Gender Diversity began in December 2014 at Seattle Hill Elementary School, where the entire staff attended a mandatory two-hour training session, entitled, Understanding Gender Identity in Children. The District’s relationship with the group has continued through 2016 with an additional 8 staff trainings and forums, most of which took place shortly before the Snohomish School Board voted to implement a new transgender policy in late June.

children_at_school_8720604364The presentations and trainings centered around this 62-page manifesto, written by the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, National Education Association, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Gender Spectrum, among other groups.  The document lays out the entire game plan for pushing radical new gender policies into a school district.

The presentation argues that schools – not parents – should take on the responsibility of affirming, promoting, and protecting transgender youth. It also discusses what measures the school can take if one or both parents are unwilling to affirm a dysphoric child’s newly chosen gender. You can read the entire report here.

Additional emails found in the public records request fulfillment indicate that the Snohomish School District also arranged meetings for Gender Diversity staff to meet individually with each school board member ahead of the June vote.

Just a week after these meetings, the school board voted 6-0 in favor of opening up all locker rooms, showers, changing facilities, and bathrooms to students of any gender or biological sex.  You can read the entire policy change here.

Why Did We Request These Records?

This public records request was initiated after a group of teachers, administrators, and parents approached FPIW seeking information about the District’s relationship with Gender Diversity. The group claims that the new policies created a hostile work and learning environment for teachers and students in the District who do not agree with its heavy promotion of transgenderism.

The group also expressed concerned that the District may have used money specifically set aside for classroom use to bring this new, politically motivated policy into place. The Snohomish School District’s budget policies appear to do little to reduce these concerns.

Friday, FPIW President Joseph Backholm sent a letter to District Assistant Superintendent Scott Peacock, who initiated nearly all communications between the Snohomish School District and Gender Diversity, outlining these concerns and also offering to facilitate “theological and philosophical sensitivity training,” to assist the District with training sessions on “how to tolerate differences of opinion on these issues without creating a hostile learning or work environment.”

Regardless of one’s political affiliation or beliefs on sensitive topics such as transgenderism, we should all agree that the purpose of public education is to ensure that children can read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide — not to promote controversial political ideologies.

Besides, if public schools are really strapped for cash – so much so that the State Supreme Court would hold the legislature in contempt for failing to give them more money – then it stands to reason that the schools should be more discerning in how they choose to use $14,100 from taxpayers.

What Can You Do About it?

The bottom line is: if you are unhappy with the state of affairs in the Snohomish School District, or in your local school district, the best thing that you can do is work to put a better school board in place. Whether that means running for a seat yourself, or recommending someone you think would be a good candidate, we are here to help.  FPIW’s hosts campaign schools and trainings for those interested in holding public office. If we, as a movement, are not willing to step in and run to win these races, we will continue to watch the public school system indoctrinate children with dangerous and harmful ideologies.

Click here to recommend someone to run for school board. We’ll reach out to them.

If you’d like to voice your concerns about the policy, district use of taxpayer funds, or to ask questions about the District’s relationship with organizations like Gender Diversity, you can contact the Snohomish School District’s Assistant Superintendent Scott Peacock at (360) 563-7284, or email him at Scott.Peacock@sno.wednet.edu.

Contact information for Snohomish School District Board Members:

Jay Hagen, School Board President

360-668-4635

jay.hagen@sno.wednet.edu


Leah Hughes-Anderson, School Board Vice-President

425-308-1252

leah.hughes-anderson@sno.wednet.edu


Shaunna Ballas, Board Member

206-715-0283

shaunna.ballas@sno.wednet.edu


David Johnston, Board Member

360-568-0228

David.johnston@sno.wednet.edu


Josh Seek, Board Member

425-377-2466

Josh.Seek@sno.wednet.edu


Dr. Kent Kultgen, Superintendent of Schools

Took over on July 1, following School Board vote

360-563-7280

kent.kultgen@sno.wednet.edu

New Video for Pastors and Churches: Don’t Be Afraid of the IRS

We’ve heard from a number of Washingtonians who are frustrated with their church’s lack of engagement in the ongoing culture battles. Pastors commonly cite IRS rules as a reason to stay quiet on the issues, afraid that their church might lose its non-profit status if they say or do the wrong thing.

What they don’t know is that thousands of pastors have been deliberately challenging the IRS to come after them, and to this point, the IRS has refused to do so.

FPIW has just released a new video, entitled, Why Your Church Won’t Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status. We’d be grateful if you’d watch the video, and then pass it on to your pastor and church leadership.

Please feel free to call our office at (425) 608-0242 if you have any questions, or email us at info@fpiw.org.

How Planned Parenthood Influences Elections in Washington State

Planned Parenthood is one of the largest corporate funders of liberal candidates and causes. The pro-abortion organization gave $6.6 million to political campaigns nationally during the 2014 election cycle alone – and they are spending lots of money in Washington State to influence the upcoming November elections.

According to reports from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, Planned Parenthood and its lobbying arm, Planned Parenthood Votes, have given tens of thousands of dollars to state races so far during the 2016 election cycle – a number that will undoubtedly increase as we get closer to Election Day in November.

Planned Parenthood’s political contributions are highly partisan. Every candidate whose campaign it has contributed to is Democrat.

Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have both received campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood during this election cycle.

These contributions followed a state review, conducted by the Office of the Attorney General, into Planned Parenthood’s medical and business practices in Washington State. The review was conducted after undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress reportedly showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about how some clinics illegally performed partial birth abortions to increase the value of fetal body parts, which were then sold to medical researchers for profit.

The Attorney General later determined that Planned Parenthood had followed all applicable laws when performing abortions and donating fetal tissue. Both Governor Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson vehemently defended Planned Parenthood, chastising the Washington State legislators that asked for the investigation.

Critics have raised questions about whether Attorney General Ferguson exercised due diligence in his review of Planned Parenthood after an email exchange, which appears to show the Deputy Attorney General refusing an opportunity to examine documents that could have incriminated Planned Parenthood. FPIW launched an effort to view these documents through a public records request, but was sued by Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry who want to make sure those public documents are sealed permanently and not released to the public.

Moreover, Inslee and Ferguson supported a Skagit County Superior Court ruling that requires public hospitals that provide maternity services for patients to also perform abortions, weakening conscience protections for doctors and hospitals. The ruling was celebrated by abortion rights activists.

Planned Parenthood used candidate surveys, which it distributed to candidates earlier this summer, to determine which legislative candidates shared the organization’s political agenda before giving endorsements and campaign contributions.

In its candidate survey, Planned Parenthood attacked the forty percent of Washington’s hospitals managed by Catholic health systems, claiming that these religiously-affiliated health providers “undermine patients’ rights” and “interfere with their ability to obtain a full range of health services.” This view likely shared by the legislative candidates that have received campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood.

In addition to funding political campaigns, Planned Parenthood used its financial resources to help sway the state initiative process. It donated a large sum to Raise Up Washington, the campaign responsible for Initiative 1433. If approved by voters in November, I-1433 will raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 per hour, which economists warn will result in higher consumer prices for goods, as well as the loss of thousands of entry-level jobs.

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest also donated thousands of dollars to Washington Won’t Discriminate, the group that misled Washingtonians about Initiative 1515. Had I-1515 been approved by voters, it would have ensured privacy for women and girls in public showers, changing facilities, and bathrooms, but it failed to gather enough signatures before the July deadline to qualify for the November ballot.

Here are the other Washington candidates and legislators who have received contributions from Planned Parenthood during the 2016 election cycle:

Mark Mullet – $1,000 Incumbent State Senator (5th Legislative District – Democrat):

Teresa Purcell – $750 Candidate for State House of Representatives (19th Legislative District – Democrat)

Kevin Van De Wege – $1,000 Candidate for State Senate (24th Legislative District – Democrat)

Marisa Peloquin – $1,000 Candidate for State Senate (28th Legislative District – Democrat)

Christine Kilduff – $1,200 Incumbent State Representative (28th Legislative District – Democrat)

Mari Leavitt – $1,000 Candidate for State House (28th Legislative District – Democrat)

Irene Bowling – $750 Candidate for State House (35th Legislative District – Democrat)

Kristine Reeves – $500 Candidate for State House (30th Legislative District – Democrat)

Michael Pellicciotti – $500 Candidate for State House (30th Legislative District – Democrat)

Steve Hobbs – $200 Incumbent State Senator (44th Legislative District – Democrat)

Annette Cleveland – $500 Incumbent State Senator (49th Legislative District – Democrat)

Additional donations for state legislative races are expected to be disclosed on Planned Parenthood Votes Washington PAC’s C-4 form, to be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission before October 18th.

In addition to campaign contributions, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest has also released a list of endorsements for candidates in Washington’s upcoming election.  Predictably, they’re all Democrats.

You can find the list here.

If you’d like to see which special interest groups are supporting the candidates in your district, use the Washington Public Disclosure Commission’s portal to take a look.

Read: Memo to School Boards Regarding OSPI Gender Identity Education Efforts

FPIW Memo

To: Members of Washington School Boards
From: Family Policy Institute of Washington
Date: 6 SEP 2016

Re: OSPI Gender Identity and Gender Expression Education

Dear School Board Members and Superintendents,

Educators and parents across the state of Washington have expressed concern over the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) efforts to insert sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression into the elementary school Health and Physical Education standards in 2017-18.

The standards advise Washington State public schools to begin teaching students — starting in Kindergarten — about gender expression, gender identity, gender roles, and sexual orientation.

The 2017-2018 Health and Physical Education Standards document was written with the heavy implication that OSPI requires schools to teach these new topics. However, OSPI has made revisions to the Standards document, in which they affirm that the implementation of the outcomes relative to sexual orientation and gender identity is optional, not mandatory, and that “the new standards do not introduce any new teaching requirements.”

Furthermore, OSPI has written in an email to multiple parents: “The standards clearly do not instruct districts to teach students about gender expression/identity/roles. Districts adopt curricula; the state doesn’t dictate that. We include suggested grade-level outcomes on the topic of self-identity if a district adopts a curriculum that includes that topic.”

OSPI has been the subject of an outpouring of criticism from both Washington State educators and parents, worried that public schools will begin teaching young, impressionable students about highly controversial and politicized topics like sexual orientation and gender identity, as a result of these standards.

Parents’ apprehension echoes a statement released by the American College of Pediatricians, a national professional association for pediatricians, advising schools against teaching gender ideology to children in the classroom. According to the pediatricians, teaching children about gender identity, if done improperly, can be harmful to their development.

Because these suggested topics are not required to be taught, there is no risk or liability for a school district that does not adopt a gender identity curriculum.

You are encouraged to contact OSPI to confirm that the new guidelines do not create a requirement to teach gender identity or expression to kids at (360) 725-6000.  If we may be of assistance, please call our office at (425) 608-0242, or email info@fpiw.org.


Family Policy Institute of Washington | 16108 Ash Way, Suite 113 |

Lynnwood, Washington | 98087

www.fpiw.org | info@fpiw.org

FPIW Announces Defending Freedom Event Series

 

Frustrated about the election?  Thinking about sitting this one out?

Before you do anything, come spend an evening with us at one of our “Defending Freedom” events.

Regardless of how you feel about who is running for President, the people elected throughout the state and nation are going to make decisions that dramatically impact your family, your church, and religious freedom.

Our “Defending Freedom” series will show you the specific policy decisions that are at stake and how the upcoming state and federal level will impact them.

Tacoma | Yakima | Bothell | Tri-Cities | Vancouver | Spokane

At this event, attendees will:

  • Learn about the upcoming elections, and the issues that will surely be affected by the outcomes,
  • Get insider information about important federal and state-level issues and races including the State Supreme Court race,
  • Better understand the balance of power at the state and federal level, and
  • Have time to ask questions about the issues and processes.

What Makes You, You?

 

What makes you, you? And what does it mean to be true to yourself?  On a personal level, we all wrestle with these questions. But the way we answer these questions has cultural consequences as well.

One view of “self” claims that “living authentically” means being true to your desires. “If it feels good do it.” Or, in more modern parlance, “You do you, man.”  The corollary, of course, is that to deny myself my desires (or to expect someone else to do so) is essentially denying yourself the chance to be who you really are.

You find this view of “self” in the arguments in favor of redefining marriage.  “If you have the right to marry the person you want to marry, I should have the right to marry the person I want to marry too.”

Justice Kennedy echoed this sentiment in the Obergefell decision that redefined what marriage is as a legal matter. “The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity.”

The unspoken premise underlying this argument is that there is no objective reality that should prevent me from being able to be who I want to be and do what I want to do.

My feelings define what is true.

It is clear, however, that that this does not extend just to marriage.  Only minutes after marriage was redefined, we were told that the ability to self-select ones gender was the next crisis of human dignity.

The sentiment is identical.

“If you have the right to be the gender you feel you are, I should have the right to be the gender I feel I am.”  The arguments appeal to the libertarian in us all because, “Hey, if you can do what makes you feel whole, it’s only fair that I get to do what makes me feel whole, right?”

The challenge with these arguments is that they require us to affirm a person’s worth by affirming their desires before pausing to ask whether it’s objectively true or good.

“Hey, if believing 2 + 2 = 4 makes you happy, I should be able to believe that 2 + 2 = 137 because that makes me happy.”

“Right on, Bro.”

The idea that each of us is the sum of our feelings will inevitably lead to irrational outcomes (more of which can be seen here).

But it does something more—and worse—as well.

While we all have impulses and desires, we all understand that many of our impulses and desires are not helpful because we have something else as well: the ability to reason.  That ability to reason allows us to consider what qualities make for an honorable and upright life, which, necessarily allows us to make judgments about what habits, behaviors, or choices are inconsistent with what we know to be virtuous.

However, in a culture which believes people live authentically solely by fulfilling their desires, the use of our reason to conclude that some feelings should be suppressed is judgmental and denies others human dignity.

And who wants to be guilty of that?

We can all understand the appeal in believing that the purpose of my existence is fulfill my desires. I mean, who doesn’t think that sounds good?

Still, despite the insistence of modern progressives that the path to personal fulfillment is being true to our desires, we live in a world in which our desires are trying to destroy us.  We know this because those of us who are indulging our desires most intentionally and consistently are also the most miserable.

So I ask again, what makes you, you? Are you a rational being capable of making choices despite how you feel, or you are defined by your desires?

By viewing ourselves as the sum of our desires, we deny ourselves the chance to be something better.  And, at some point, we’ll discover that we are now convinced that feeling female actually makes it so.