An attack on parents

by Jonathan Small

Opponents of deference to parents often believe parents cannot be trusted to raise their own children.

The latest proof comes in two bills filed at the Oklahoma Legislature.

House Bill 4130, by state Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa, would require any homeschooling parents to notify the state Department of Human Services and undergo a background check. The bill would also impose registration and background-check requirements on parents who “change school districts, whether a result of a move or otherwise.”

Basically, Swope’s default assumption is that any parent who educates their child anywhere other than a local, geographically assigned school should be treated as a likely child predator.

This is complete nonsense. Research shows a child’s educational setting – whether homeschooled, public school or private school – has no significant correlation with child abuse.

Instead, the Childrens’ Assessment Center reports that children who live with two married biological parents “are at low risk for abuse.” Risk increases “when children live with stepparents or a single parent.” Foster children “are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents.” Children living with a single parent who has a live-in partner “are at the highest risk: they are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.”

The destructive behavior of some is not justification for treating all people guilty until proven innocent.

House Bill 3585, by state Rep. Judd Strom, R-Copan, would require children benefiting from the state’s school-choice tax credit to be subjected to state testing – even though they attend private school or homeschool.

But the reason we have state testing in public schools is to provide parents with data on outcomes that might not be readily available otherwise given that public-school enrollment is basically by default if parents do not proactively choose another option.

In contrast, private schools already have reason to demonstrate their effectiveness to customers—parents. (And research typically shows homeschool and private-school students outperform their peers in public school.) Strom’s bill assumes Oklahoma parents cannot be trusted to evaluate that information without government “experts.”

Again, this is nonsense.

Opponents of parents have been trying to impose similar draconian regulations for decades—long before the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit existed.

My parents, wanting a better academic and biblically based environment, chose to educate me at home. My first trips to the Capitol occurred in the mid-1980s because we were lobbying against bills that tried to regulate families’ ability to homeschool.

So long as there are politicians who think they should control how your children are raised, this fight will continue. It’s up to Oklahomans to send other politicians a counter message — “No, you don’t.” — and urge them to kill these destructive and predatory bills.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).



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