February 4, 2010

Oregon Governor Kulongoski has proclaimed today, February 4, 2010, Oregon Private Schools Appreciation Day.  In the midst of the latest money-based public school educational reform initiatives (fads), it is important to remember that there is not an educational crisis in our private schools.  That is not to say that the private school community does not have problems, but because they operate on free-market principles, they are better able to address and remedy them efficiently to the satisfaction of the families that they serve.

Let’s step back and see how this all works.  Our country was founded on the proposition that not only was freedom an inalienable right, but a free environment would actually improve the human condition.  Over 200 years later we find this premise being proved in the field of education.

Almost 10 years ago, the  Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released a study which found that high levels of state support for parental choice in education correlates to strong performance on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the SAT, even after controlling for other demographic and policy factors. (The report, entitled The Education Freedom Index is available on the Web site of the Manhattan Institute.)

In that study, Oregon ranked fifth from the top for providing families with an environment of educational freedom.  The bad news is that at one time Oregon had the distinction of being the only state in the union to outlaw any alternative to public school, making it mandatory for all children to attend public school.

June 1, 2010 will mark the 85th anniversary of an important Supreme Court decision, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which overturned Oregon’s 1922 Compulsory Education Act.  That 1922 Oregon law was designed to destroy private schools in Oregon by requiring parents to send their children to public schools, and each day they failed to do so was a separate misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Only the courage of the Society of Sisters and Hill Military Academy stopped efforts in Oregon and elsewhere to destroy the parental option of enrolling children in private schools.  Together they successfully sued to stop the law from being enforced, with members of various religious faiths joining in briefs before the US Supreme Court including Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, and Seventh-day Adventists.

In my next blog, I’ll go over more of the arguments and “reasoning” that advocates brought before the Supreme Court.  But the good news is that the Supreme Court threw out the Oregon law and the Court left its mark in the legal history of American private education when it declared, “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”

Today we celebrate the living reversal of that oppressive law, and a formal recognition of all the good things that private schools bring to Oregon and to children and families throughout the world.

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Thursday February 4, 2010 at 08:18AM

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