Protect Our Children

by Debbie Wuthnow

The Impact State Officials
Have on Your Children

We have talked often about the role of school board members when it comes to influencing our children's or grandchildren’s education. However, do you know that many more elected officials play a significant role in shaping education policy?

Regardless of today’s federal education initiatives, the fact is that the Constitution does not give the federal government authority over the education of our children. According to the principle outlined in the 10th Amendment, the states or the people reserve the right to create education policy for the children in their state.

Who Impacts the Children in Your State?

For an in-depth perspective, you will need to explore the laws and governmental structure of your particular state. However, some commonalities are important to keep in mind as you cast your votes for candidates who may be in a position to protect our children.

1. State Legislators

The kind of education your children receive is guided by laws passed by your state legislature. For example:

  • In New York, homeschooling families are required by law to submit an instruction plan to the state and meet a required number of educational hours. For families in Texas, however, neither of those requirements exist in state law.
  • Before a public school can teach sex education to a child, some states have laws requiring parental consent. Other states only allow parents to opt out of such instruction.
  • Kindergarteners through 3rd graders will be protected from instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity due to a “Parental Rights in Education” bill recently passed by the Florida legislature. These same in children in Washington State, however, will soon be required to undergo "comprehensive sexual health education" that includes sexual orientation and gender identity (unless the parents opt out).

2. State Education Agencies and Boards

Whether referred to as a state department of education, education agency, or other title, state boards and agencies also greatly impact the education of our children. In accordance with the laws passed by the state legislature, these officials often play a large part in developing curriculum standards, education policy, and knowledge requirements for students.

For example, when the California State Legislature passed a law requiring high school students to complete one semester of ethnic studies, it was up to the state board of education to propose a model curriculum which local school districts could choose to follow.

Input from parents, teachers, and other members of the public can be instrumental in deciding what is included in model curriculum. 

Most state departments of education work alongside a state board of education, whose members are either elected or appointed by the governor or legislature.  The board's authority varies by state. The legislature may be required to confirm the governor's appointments, similar to the U.S. Senate's confirmation of presidential nominees.

3. Governor

Your governor has the power to veto legislation affecting children’s education and is typically very influential when it comes to the kind of bills that are prioritized and passed.

In several states, the governor is responsible for appointing the head of the state education agency. He or she may also issue executive orders which affect children in public schools. We have seen this in the implementation of statewide mask mandates, and prohibitions on mask mandates.

State Officials are Under Tremendous Pressure from Various Groups

  • Unions—teacher and school administrator unions who protect the interests of their members regardless of the children’s interests
  • Associations—such as the now-infamous National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the American Library Association, which often guide the actions of school board members and the selection of children’s school library books
  • Organizations with agendas—the Bill Gates Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and pro-LGBTQ groups produce school curriculum and see children’s minds as a valuable commodity
  • Federal government—which often attaches undesirable requirements to receiving school funds

Despite their influence, there are two other “special interest groups” whose recent involvement can—and has—made a positive difference in children’s education:

  • Parents – mama and papa bears who are deeply disturbed at the violation of their parental rights and the content to which their children may be exposed.
  • Voters – who care about the country’s future and the wellbeing of the children in their state, regardless of whether they themselves are a parent.

State Elections Do Make a Difference

When parents and conservative voters showed up to the polls in Virginia last year, candidates won who were committed to protecting children. The newly-elected governor issued an executive order allowing parents to opt out of mask mandates for their child’s school. Shortly afterward, the state legislature passed a bill requiring school boards to notify parents of any instructional materials that include sexually explicit content. Parents spoke up, voted, and secured victories for their children.

In addition to local school boards, your state legislature, education department, and governor play important roles in the education of your children . . . and the future of your state. Some officials are governed by principle. Others, sadly, by power. For this reason, you can—and must—exercise the power of your vote.

These officials have many voices attempting to guide their decisions. If we don’t speak and vote on behalf of our children, others will. They have been doing so for many years. iVoterGuide can help you discover who is committed to protecting your children, and who is not.

Learn more about our School Board Initiative.

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