Author archives: Zachary Rogers

Education Reform: 6 Ways to Help Students Flourish

by Zachary Rogers

February 20, 2019

The American education system is in need of reform. According to a Pew Research Center report, educational attainment is low, and American students rank in the middle on science, mathematics, and reading, placing them behind their peers in other countries. Parents concerned with the character and morals of their children are also often disappointed by the secularization that has taken hold in many schools. Americans, in particular Christians, need options.

Top down control of the education system by Washington, which has turned education into a bureaucratic endeavor, has been a failure. Repeated endeavors from the federal government since 1965 has led to falling standards, while oversight, bureaucracy, meddling, and parent dissatisfaction have all increased. The blame for this rests squarely on both the Republican and Democratic parties. This shift from the norm of locally funded and locally controlled schools has led parents to search for other options, which in turn led to the birth of the school choice movement.

There are multiple ways to provide the options parents want to meet the unique needs of their children. Here are a few:

1. Charter Schools

Charter schools are similar to public schools in that they are tuition free, are non-selective, and are operated by an independent board of governors. They are required to comply with all state laws regarding religion, discrimination, and employment. The difference between a standard public school and a charter public school is flexibility. They are allowed to have a mission, develop a curriculum related to the mission, and select teachers able to achieve the mission. Charter schools partner with parents to meet the needs of their children.

2. Education Savings Accounts

Education savings accounts are another method of providing parents with choice. Rather than send the per-pupil funding the state would have sent to the neighborhood school, the state deposits that amount into a savings account on behalf of a student whose parents select this option. With this money, parents are able to craft a slew of simultaneous learning options for their children. For example, a child may take an online class while enrolled in a charter school and receive private tutoring for the violin. In 2019, there are many options for receiving an education. Education Savings Accounts allow parents to find a quality one.

3. Vouchers

K-12 vouchers are scholarships that allow families to send their children to private schools. They are often used to provide assistance for children with disabilities, low income students, or students who are trapped in a failing school.

4. A Return to Local School Board Control

Education-related decision making should be returned to the state and local levels. Historically, it was the state and local school board that handled education matters. This preserved liberty by respecting the principle of federalism and promoted the involvement and control of those most concerned with the welfare of students—parents, local officials, and members of the school board. This system was progressively abandoned. Beginning in the 1960’s and up to the present day, the compliance issues and costs associated with federal programs such as Common Core and the Every Student Succeeds Act have become burdensome. State and local districts are better positioned to understand and respond to the issues faced by parents and students than federal bureaucrats.

5. Tax Credits

A tax credit scholarship program allows people to get a tax credit for donating to a scholarship program. They allow state taxpayers to receive a full or partial tax credit against their tax obligations. These state-based tax credit scholarship programs are an important part of sustaining private school choice. They enable scholarship programs, funded by individuals or corporations, to provide scholarships to the needy or deserving, allowing parents to find the private schools their children need.

6. Homeschooling

Homeschooling is quite simply the practice of educating your children at home. Parents do this for different reasons—dissatisfaction with public or private school academics, dangerous school environments, or the desire to impart religious instruction. Homeschooled students may be taught by parents, guardians, or tutors. Homeschooling has been a traditional method of education since our country’s founding, and it has seen a surge in popularity since the 1980s. Since then, the number of homeschoolers has increased and with it a proliferation of resources and networks.

Conservatives and Christians who value the responsibility to care for their children, a responsibility that carries over to the duty of educating them, should support school choice. They should do so for multiple reasons. First, every child has unique interests and needs—school choice allows parents to meet them. Second, it protects liberty by returning control to state and local officials. Third, parents who are concerned about the morals being taught to, the lack of safety for, or the type of education methods used on their children can find the right school to satisfy those concerns. Fourth, it allows parents to take advantage of technology and the plethora of resources available to them that might not be available in their child’s current school. Finally, it brings market pressures to bear upon bad schools.

For these reasons school choice should be high on the agenda of state legislators, conservatives, and Christians.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

Return to the Constitution: Judicial Activism or Originalism?

by Zachary Rogers

February 12, 2019

FRC has consistently maintained that the Supreme Court needs to bring legal precedent more in line with the Constitution and the principles of the Declaration of Independence. But if this effort is taken up in earnest by a newly conservative Court, it is likely to be tarred as “judicial activism.” Judicial activism occurs when a judge applies his views rather than a faithful interpretation of the law to the case before him. What is needed, and what we look forward to seeing with the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and many more lower court judges, is judges’ faithful interpretation of the Constitution and the laws to the cases before them.

However, many on the Left think that overturning any of the bad precedent churned out by the Supreme Court is partisan judicial activism. It is not. To understand this, we must comprehend the structure the Framers crafted, the role of judicial review within it, and the place of the other branches within this system.

The Framers carefully crafted a system of ordered liberty, which entrusted certain enumerated powers to the national government and reserved the rest to the people and the states. The improved science of politics included checks and balances, separation of powers, and elected representatives.

They did this because the legislature and executive branch “could be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.” In essence, Congress would promulgate laws, the president would execute them, and the Supreme Court would adjudicate the relevant laws in individual cases.

The Framers created a system of checks and balances in which ambition would be made to counteract ambition. Each branch was expected to protect its prerogatives and powers, thus enforcing separation of powers and preventing tyranny—the accumulation of legislative, executive, and judicial power. This system of limited government and ordered liberty under the Constitution has shifted since 1787.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land because it is the settled and deliberate will of the people against which congressional laws, executive actions, and Supreme Court decisions must be measured. Traditionally, all three of the branches were expected to be faithful to the Constitution in the execution of their duties.

The Progressive Era, however, caused the modern American regime to shift dangerously to the left. The president is no longer expected merely to execute the laws passed by Congress but to nudge the American people in a partisan direction. Congress spends little time passing laws; instead, it occupies most of its time overseeing executive agencies while delegating lawmaking to executive agencies. The Supreme Court perceives itself the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution—which could be defined in accord with the intent of the Framers or according to the “living” Constitution desired by the liberals.

The rise of the modern court occurred for two reasons. First, the theory of the living Constitution requires the document to be interpreted in accord with the spirit of the times. This requires it to have no fixed meaning, subject to varying interpretation, and acting as a vehicle of “progress” to move the American people forward. Second, modern liberals were able to use the courts to achieve social and political change. They were forced to do so because they were unable to achieve decisive victory at the ballot box, which would have allowed them to implement their desired laws and policy objectives.

One of the reasons Supreme Court practice has strayed from the Founder’s intentions is an erroneous understanding of Marbury v. Madison (1803). The modern understanding of this case is that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and all officials must comply with it. In fact, the Court ruled that when a law conflicts with the Constitution it is the Constitution that is paramount.

Judicial review is simply the authority to declare acts void when they conflict with the Constitution. A strict fidelity to the original meaning of the Constitution limits judges’ power. If a law violates the Constitution of the Framers, then it must be declared void.

Therefore, Supreme Court decisions are not the last word and may in fact be revisited in order to uphold a proper constitutional construction. In this partisan atmosphere, Christians and conservatives should expect charges of judicial activism in an effort to tar genuine efforts to return to constitutional law. A true recognition of judicial activism lets the American people distinguish between a rejection, distortion, or return to the Constitution.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

In the World But Not of the World: Christians and Politics

by Zachary Rogers

January 25, 2019

Christians are commanded to be in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). This applies not only to areas of our secular life such as work and school but also extends to politics. According to the Apostle Paul, the government should promote good and restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4). This goal is best served by electing the right men and women to office and promoting laws that accord with justice.

Christians are confronted with different choices in candidates, policies, and parties. Choosing wisely requires the discipline of prudence—weighing ends and means in light of the circumstances in order to achieve the best results possible.

We are all made in the image of God, and He gave us the gift of reason. It should be used. Christians are able to weigh the declared aims and policies of politicians to determine between better and best, good and bad.

The blunt fact of the matter is that, currently, our two main parties advocate for different conceptions of the human good and biblical ethics. On issues such as abortion, LGBT rights, and religious liberty, the stances of the two parties and the politicians in them are starkly opposed. The implications for Christians are important because America lets its citizens elect their government. The Founders understood that the purpose of government is justice and structured it accordingly.

The Constitution on one hand carefully orders our republic to protect liberty and natural rights, while on the other relying upon a virtuous and vigorous citizenry. The federal government was given enumerated powers in order to achieve specific ends: national defense, domestic tranquility, and the protection of property and liberties. For this reason, it is a carefully constructed structure with separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism to restrain those who are overly ambitious and greedy. Yet at the same time citizens have immense power through their ability to elect representatives to deliberate regarding the national good and pass legislation to achieve this end.

Christians are faced with the fact that the American system of ordered liberty requires and depends upon active citizen participation. If they do not remain actively involved in campaigns, elections, running for office, litigation, and agency regulations, then politicians unconcerned with biblical morality, natural law, or natural right will be elected, and laws will inevitably be passed without the input of the citizenry. Americans sometimes fail to remember that the law and the system of government shapes the citizenry—the goals they have and how they pursue them. To ignore the privilege the Constitution bestows upon citizens and the need for Christians to be the salt of the earth is gross negligence of duty.

When military servicemen abandon their posts, the consequences are often severe—the destruction and defeat of their regiment, leaving open the city under their protection to invaders. Christians have the Holy Scriptures to guide them in a world of moral relativists. If Christians withdraw from the public square, what would fill the vacuum they leave behind? Because of the inevitable effect of laws upon culture (think of liberalized abortion and SOGI laws and their rapid acceptance afterwards by mainstream culture), Christians cannot safely withdraw from politics. Those who think they can safely withdraw to their local community and their local church are mistaken. Religious liberty and just laws are at stake. Therefore, men and women who will protect and promulgate these laws must be elected.

Are the politicians Christians elect perfect? No. On the question of whether flawed men can achieve sound ends, the answer is yes. Christians should strive to place the best candidates possible in government offices and recognize that while they are on Earth they will have to make use of their God given reason to make the best possible decision. This will inevitably include politicians who are not perfect and who will implement imperfect policies and pass less than flawless legislation.

Christians have been gifted with clear moral guidance from the Scriptures and the ability to carefully use reason to consider policies and laws, and have been blessed with a system of ordered liberty that depends upon their participation. To those Christians who are considering withdrawing from politics: you must stay. Your country needs you. While you might not be interested in politics, politics, politicians, and government bureaucracies are interested in you.

Zachary Rogers is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

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