Wyoming Liberty Group
Refugees fled years and years ago from poverty and an oppressive government into the unknown and landed on new shores which were mysterious and harsh to them. They took that huge risk to escape persecution and have the opportunity to choose their own paths. Some of those people suffered terribly in their new land and were unsuccessful. Most, however, thrived in spite the difficulties of starting with almost nothing. And few of them would have chosen to return to their original homes. The opportunities for freedom, choice and hope were irresistible.
Of course we are talking about early emigrants moving from Europe and elsewhere to the US. But their story is universal. They valued their freedom and independence so highly that they enshrined them in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.
Wyoming’s state constitution, written in 1889, requires Wyoming to have universal and compulsory education. That and Wyoming Supreme Court decisions have produced our K-12 system which, despite its many virtues, has evolved into a dictatorial behemoth. In it, the people most concerned, the parents, have little or no choice. This in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court having stated, “[A parent’s] right to make decisions concerning the rearing of her own [children] is a fundamental constitutional right.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 70, 120 S. Ct. 2054, 2062 (2000).
Parents have no choice about what school district or school they get assigned to. They have no say concerning who teaches their children and only a little about curriculum or who is on their school board. And school boards tend to be pulled in many directions by legal requirements, administrative matters and budgets and so can be unresponsive. If parents try to address issues to the school or district administration, they can get labeled as a meddling parent and ignored. It shouldn’t be this way. Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court again, "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children—is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court." Troxel, 530 U.S. at 65; 120 S. Ct. at, 2060 (2000).
Customers unhappy with a business’ service or product can vote with their feet by shopping elsewhere because they are not obligated to buy. Parents are not so lucky. They are required to use the school they’re assigned to with limited exceptions. Exceptions include online learning through the state via Niobrara #1’s system, a charter or private school if a state-approved one happens (or not) to be nearby and affordable, or homeschooling for those with sufficient time and money. The last, most drastic and expensive option of all is of course the family can pack up and move elsewhere.
We all value education dearly, but do we value one particular system of education so much that parents must be compelled to use it? Do we value it more than individual, constitutionally protected freedom?
We would all be better served if Wyoming returned to first principles and amended its constitution. Parents have the inalienable U.S. Constitutional right to make decisions concerning the rearing of their children - including education. They should have the ability to pick a different school or school district with local control. Choice of homeschooling, online, private or charter should not cost them extra. They are not dependents of a dictatorial behemoth, they are free citizens who value liberty, freedom and choice.