TO THE ALABAMA SCHOOL BOARD AND ALABAMA LEGISLATURE
For Remedy of Grievances
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations of Alabama, do hereby reaffirm the fundamental right of parents to raise our children without undue interference from federal and state governments and to oversee our children’s education[i], and assert that the State does not have unlimited power to dictate one set of standards or regulate a certain way to educate all Alabama children.[ii] We therefore submit a list of grievances against the State Superintendent of Education, who’s signaled his intention to force church and home schools under the control of the Alabama Department of Education and under the same courses of study as public schools, aka Common Core, which takes away an inherent right of parents to decide what our children should learn and how to teach it. We seek redress to these grievances by asking the State Board of Education and the Alabama Legislature to forfeit the Superintendent’s actions and restore parental control and state sovereignty over education in Alabama.
WHEREAS, The enduring American tradition that parents have a fundamental right to not only rear their children, but also the right to oversee their education, has been established beyond debate;
WHEREAS, Some parents believe the public school system is inadequate to provide quality education and have the right to choose alternative methods to ensure that their children receive a quality education, such as homeschooling and church schools;
WHEREAS, Alabama law provides that when parents are affiliated with a church and receive no state or federal funding, the State Superintendent of Education cannot monitor, interfere or regulate in any way their instruction including enrollment reports, certification of teachers, dictating curriculum or the method of teaching and the subject matter to be taught;[iii]
WHEREAS, There is no provision of Alabama law that permits or requires any state, local authority or the State Superintendent to regulate a church or home school other than the state laws requiring parents to report attendance and for church schools to report if a student is no longer in attendance at such a school; and therefore “Church schools are exempt from regulations or state laws governing public and private schools”;[iv] [v]
WHEREAS, The Alabama State Superintendent, without statutory authority or a vote by the State Board, moved to place under his control and regulate all private, church and home schools in Alabama by creating and staffing a new Non-Public Schools department and issuing a 31-page book of rules and regulations dated July 9, 2013[vi], to control church and home schools, and notified these schools of the intentions of the Alabama State Department to ask the Alabama State Board of Education to approve amendments to the Alabama Administrative Code to tighten its control over church and home schools;
WHEREAS, these new rules and regulations would have forced church and home schools to teach curriculum “comparable to ALSDE recognized educational standards,” a.k.a. Common Core, thus obliterating the exemption of church and home schools to have choice in the selection of what they teach and how, and to avoid materials that demean Christianity and moral values, contain foul and sexually explicit language, promote promiscuity and excuse rape and incest;
WHEREAS, the adoption and imposition of Common Core by the Alabama State Board of Education on public schools removes choice in public education; and its aligned assessments, tests, and college entrance exams trickle down to impact private, church and home schools; relinquishes parental control and state sovereignty over education; and centralizes education which takes away parents’ fundamental rights to oversee the education of their children, which is a natural right, and infringes upon parents’ religious liberties to rear their children according to their own religious beliefs and moral values without undue intrusion from the federal government or the state;
WHEREAS, The State Superintendent’s plan to oversee church and home schools included (1) a $500 fee to accompany an application for exemption, (2) submission of church documents to prove the legal status of the church school ministry, (3) submission of a catalog of courses the school would teach and “curriculum comparable to ALSDE recognized educational standards”, and (4) penalties for failure to comply with these new rules and regulations to include (i) the refusal by the State to recognize diplomas, (ii) the refusal to allow students to transfer credits to a public school, and the denial of graduates to attend State two or four year colleges;
WHEREAS, The State Superintendent backed down temporarily in the face of pressure put on him by Republican leaders in response to an uprising of parents, but stated he would pursue legislation to change State laws to allow the Alabama State Department of Education to control church and home schools the same way ALSDE controls non-religious private schools;
WHEREAS, While the State Superintendent seems intent on creating a “partnership” with or “control” of church schools and home schools, parents want no part of any sort of partnership with the state’s public education system and this is why parents opt out of public schools in the first place;
WHEREAS, the State Superintendent wants to tax a church for carrying out a legitimate ministry and call it a “fee”, and seems to ignore the fact that church schools already pay for any state services they use, from testing fees for teacher certification to members in athletic associations;
WHEREAS, This is an overreach of government authority and there have been no reports of widespread problems requiring state intervention or a request for such from church and home schools;
WHEREAS, Public schools in Alabama do have serious problems, and the State Superintendent and the Alabama State School Board should focus limited resources of the Department of Education on the problems of public schools instead of encroaching on and meddling in private schools, church schools and home schools, which are thriving and outperform public schools in every category at lower cost;
WHEREAS, Alabama law provides that when parents are affiliated with a church and receive no state or federal funding; the State Superintendent of Education or the Alabama State Board of Education cannot monitor, interfere or regulate in any way their instruction including enrollment reports, certification of teachers, dictating curriculum or the method of teaching and the subject matter to be taught;
WHEREAS, The State Superintendent persuaded the State Board of Education to adopt a data policy which supposedly protects student privacy while it allows the collection, data-mining, and sharing of private, non-academic information on students without parental permission; allows the collection of students’ behaviors and psychosocial attributes; and some school assessments can ask children about their or their family’s “political affiliations or beliefs; mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family, sex behavior or with whom respondents have close family relationships; legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parents; or income, thus threatening student and family privacy and serving no legitimate academic purpose;”[vii]
WHEREAS, The State Superintendent included in Plan 2020 (the eight-year strategic vision of K-12 education) race-based standards which lowers expectations for and stigmatizes minorities, and puts the State of Alabama in a bad light for this backward thinking;[viii]
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, the State Board of Education and the Alabama Legislature remedy the above grievances by the following actions:
- The Alabama State School Board vote to direct the State Superintendent to fully retract the proposed rules and discontinue any legislative or other efforts to regulate non-public schools;
- The Alabama State School Board vote to require the State Superintendent to cooperate with non-public schools to pass legislation to recognize non-public schools’ autonomy and remove all impediments to non-public school students and teachers accessing and receiving all education benefits, including but not limited to, transfer between non-public and public schools, acceptance into Alabama secondary schools and The Alabama Fire College and police academies, assistance to the disabled, and other rights, privileges and opportunities available to public school students and teachers;
- The Alabama Legislature roll back the race-based standards in Plan 2020; and
- The Alabama Legislature uphold their duty to retain local autonomy over education by passing legislation in the 2014 session that would:
- (1) make it clear that the Alabama State Superintendent and Alabama State School Board are prohibited from regulating, controlling, or interfering with the establishment, curriculum or staff of church schools and home schools, (2) protect personal, non-academic information on students, that’s as strong or stronger than SB190 introduced during the 2013 legislative session, that would restore in Alabama the privacy rights in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), stripped by President Obama that allows spying on our children at school through the collection and sharing of invasive, personal, non-academic information;
- overturn the State Superintendent’s decision to not remove pornographic reading materials that are part of the Common Core recommended reading lists (Exemplars) linked from and “encouraged” on the Alabama State Department of Education website and ensure that no materials that are sexually graphic or encourage the corruption of youth morals can be part of Alabama’s K-12 curriculum now or in the future; and
- repeal the State Board of Education’s decision to adopt Common Core and its aligned assessments and data gathering, which was an overreach into legislative authority and results in the loss of parental control and state sovereignty over education.
WHO SHOULD SIGN & WHAT INFORMATION IS NEEDED?
Anyone who supports this petition can sign. There’s no need to physically sign the petition; “signers” need only send their name and county of residence by email to firstname.lastname@example.org OR type your name and county of residence as a “comment” to this article below.
[i] Peirce, 451 A.2d at 367
[ii] Peirce, 451 A2d at 367; see also Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215 (1972)
[iii] Code of Alabama 1975, Sections 16-28-1, 16-1-11, 16-28-3, 16-28-7, 16-28-8, 16-28-15, 16-28-23, 16-28-24, 16-40-1
[iv] Code of Alabama 1975, § 16-28-2.1, § 16-28-3 and § 16-28-7; Attorney General Bill Pryor Opinion dated January 3, 1997
[v] Code of Alabama 1975, § 16-28-24
[vi] The “Rules and Regulations for Private Schools and Church Schools in Alabama” dated July 9, 2013, can be viewed at: http://www.cpalabama.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/NonPublicSchoolHandbookEditedVersion.pdf
[vii]“Orwellian Nightmare: Data-Mining Your Kids,” New American, By Alex Newman, dated August 8, 2013; http://thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/16193-orwellian-nightmare-data-mining-your-kids
Superintendent Tommy Bice consistently misleads legislators, parents and the press that Alabama does not and will not collect non-academic, personally identifiable information on students than can assessed by the federal government and private parties from the state and local levels, knowing full well that:
- Private student data collection cannot be secured since President Obama bypassed Congress and changed FERPA laws (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) through regulation in January 2012 to allow third party data collection and sharing;
- Alabama has built an interoperable State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) to capture and link student data from preschool through the workforce. Bice cannot deny the certification/commitment Alabama made in its federal grant application to have the SLDS system up and running; and
- Bice’s opening statement in the data policy stating that the resolution relied on FERPA is a farce.
[viii] http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20130630/NEWS/130629743/0/search. Under No Child Left Behind, 95 percent of all third-graders had to pass math by 2013 for a school to meet education standards. All third-graders, black, white, poor, special needs or otherwise, had to meet the same goal. But under Plan 2020, the percentage of third-graders required to pass math in 2013 are:
* 93.6 % of Asian/Pacific Islander students.
* 91.5 % of white students.
*90.3 % of American Indian students.
* 89.4 % of multiracial students.
* 85.5 % of Hispanic students.
* 82.6 % of students in poverty.
* 79.6 % of English language-learner students.
* 79 % of black students.
* 61.7 % of special needs students.