School Choice

GOP Wants Constitutional Amendment to Give Parents Control Over Kids' Education

The proposed amendment is a new addition to the Republican platform.


USAG-Humphreys / Flickr

It will come as no surprise that Republicans favor giving parents more control over their children's education. But this year, the party took things to a new level by calling for a constitutional amendment to make sure they get their way.

The proposal comes from the 2016 GOP platform that was approved at the nominating convention on Monday. The relevant section reads: 

Parents are a child's first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children's education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.

The Republican Party has always been strongly in favor of keeping decision making as close to students as possible, favoring state and local policies over efforts based in Washington, D.C. Even in 2004 with No Child Left Behind in full swing, the GOP recognized education in its platform as "a state, local, and family responsibility, not a federal obligation."

The 2012 platform put even more focus on state and local control, calling on officials to make sure they're "providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level."

But in the past, "state" and "local" have generally been lumped together. The new proposal to amend the Constitution departs from that trend by listing state governments alongside the U.S. Department of Education and the U.N. as forces that ought to be kept out of educational policy making.

As a whole, this year's GOP plank on K–12 education doesn't differ all that much from the past. Yet the fact that committee members felt strongly enough to call for formally altering the U.S. Constitution is noteworthy—especially coming from a party that as recently as four years ago seemed perfectly comfortable with having some state government involvement in public schools.

NEXT: Scenes from the Ground in Cleveland After 2 Days of the RNC

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  1. Don’t we already have the Ninth and Tenth Amendments?

    1. Yeah, but they were written a long time ago by white guys who owned slaves and are hard to understand.

      1. They talked like fags

    2. Yes, but the courts have left unclear whether there is a constitutional right to homeschool one’s child.

      I suspect this plank is designed primarily to secure parents’ right to homeschool their kids — not prevent states from engaging in educational policymaking. In even the most conservative states, many issues of educational policy are set at the state rather than local level (like minimum curriculum requirements). But some teachers union officials would like want to ban home-schooling.

      I don’t think the plank described above is about keeping state governments out of public schools, but about recognizing a constitutional right to homeschooling: a subject the Supreme Court has never addressed, although it has said parents have the right to send their kids to private schools (when the California Court of Appeal ruled there was no constitutional right to home-school, it triggered a firestorm, and criticism from Libertarian think-tank scholars at the Cato Institute and elsewhere, and from Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) and others ? I believe that decision may have been depublished and deprived of precedential value):

      I think this plank is primarily aimed at preventing state governments from banning homeschooling or regulating it to death, since that should be recognized as a constitutional right of the parents. And perhaps secondarily aimed at allowing parents to opt out of certain forms of state-mandated indoctrination of their kids.

  2. So will this new Amendment be ignored just like the others?

    1. (checks Magic 8-Ball) “It is certain.”

      1. heh, its like congress is just too stupid to understand the words “shall make no law”.

  3. I always start my declarations about education with a good old comma splice.

    1. A well regulated education being necessary to the teaching of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear textbooks shall not be infringed.

      1. Only States can have textbooks!!11!!!!

      2. Publish all the bear textbooks you want

      3. Textbook shall be limited to no more than 7 chapters. Who needs an 8 chapter textbook?

      4. That was written long ago before the Kindle. I demand we confiscate all Kindles!

  4. Hmm, interesting. Sounds promising, but I’d like to see the actual text of the proposed amendment.

    1. It’s over 2000 pages long.


      it could use some work, but not bad.

  5. An entire new amendment seems a bit excessive, but laws ensuring this would be a good thing.

    1. I dunno, education is a particularly important aspect of speech/thought rights, like journalism and political speech. Government education is just as dangerous as government media. An amendment seems warranted.

  6. Durr hurr Repooplikkkinz are stoupid.

  7. Drake has the correct answer above: the Constitution we have if read is good enough.

    Generally, what passes for education today has little to do with making a useful citizen, employer, or employee, anyway.

    But what is the best answer for that quartile that is socially incompetent due to addiction, mental disease, etc who can’t even parent their kids much less educate them? It seems like a mistake to let an incompetent destroy a child…that seems like a poor outcome to use in defense of liberty.

    1. But what is the best answer for that quartile that is socially incompetent due to addiction, mental disease, etc who can’t even parent their kids much less educate them?

      The liberty answer is that this is not your business. Not yours, not mine, not anyone’s. People are going to make choices of which we do not approve; the alternative is making choices for them, removing their autonomy to make the “wrong” choices.

      Some choices really are wrong. My niece is pissing away life, and there’s nothing I can do to stop her. This is unfortunate. Taking away her ability to do so would be worse. He who fights with monsters, you know.

      If you want it to be your business, don’t ask how strangers could best solve this if you give them enough guns and other people’s money. Make it your business. Find a kid who needs an adult. Talk to them, get to know them as people. Go find that grandparent raising their grandkids by mostly letting the roam the streets, and pay for Little League. Take the kid to practice, ask about their homework. Give a damn. Invest in them. And take no for an answer, because at the end of the day the only person you can hope to control is yourself.

      My thoughts, anyway.

      1. The counterargument is that if the state has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens (and let’s just take that as a given for now), then shouldn’t it intervene if the actions of a parent are infringing on the rights of a child?

        1. We have laws enough to choke a cow. If someone is breaking the law – raping their daughter, stealing their son’s paycheck, selling their grandkid’s medication to buy booze – then prosecute them.

          If the objection is that an adult is not raising a child to turn out a STEM graduate, then it’s probably time we recognize this is not vital enough to require intervention with guns.

          Let’s not confuse rights with preferences.

          1. Fair enough. I still don’t think it is that cut and dry. Do you have a right to an education? No, not as we libertarians understand the term ‘right’. Do you have the right to pursue an education? Absolutely. If parents’ bad decisions are impeding their child’s right to pursue an education, should the state intervene? I think that is the relevant question. But how do you determine what education an 8 year old would pursue if freed from parental restraints? Would it actually look anything like what most people think of as a “good” education? Does that approach even make sense when talking about kids? I honestly don’t know.

            1. I think the overall point, and I could be wrong here, is that you as an individual should feel free to make it your business if you see a child in a bad situation. No need to get the state involved, get yourself involved. If you don’t get anywhere with the child or the parents run you off, drop it. You can’t save everyone.

            2. I still don’t think it is that cut and dry.

              Oh, absolutely. Nothing ever is. I mean, six billion members of humanity, if there were one obvious and easy sovereign specific, we’d have thought of it by now.

              But in general theory, yeah, I suspect we haven’t fully explored the potential of the personal solution yet. See a problem, fix a problem, instead of turning it over to a collective of people incentivized against ever correcting the problem completely.

              It’d be a great national conversation to have.

              1. Incentives Matter. Government bureaucrats have no incentive to actually eliminate a problem that generates their paycheck.

          2. Hell, I’m a STEM graduate, and a STEM educator, and I can’t even convince my kids to go into STEM.

            I am also at the very same time concerned that STEM careers are being pushed for education and immigration policy in order to keep a good stream of cheap young workers coming so that old workers can be screwed out of their careers years before they are ready and able to retire.

      2. You can’t justify structuring a society around an ethic of self-determination alone when many people are doomed to failure by nothing more than the bad luck of having poor, shitty parents. That’s not maximum freedom, it’s social darwinism. And since you can’t justify that type of society with coherent ethical principles, nobody is under any obligation to prefer it over a more activist, egalitarian system.

        1. Well look who shows up to argue coherent ethical principles.

        2. “You can’t, you can’t, you can’t. YOU CAN’T.”

          I had shitty parents and poverty. Keep telling me what I can’t do as a result, and I’ll keep ignoring it and doing my best anyway. The worth of a “free” education? If someone wants to educate themselves, well, we have the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips, so go ahead and try to stop them.

          But you do. You do exactly that. In the name of “free” education, illiberals jack the cost of higher education by orders of magnitude and demand credentials for silly shit, keeping the poor out of productive work. In the name of “free” healthcare, illiberals turn the healthcare industry into a racketeering monopoly that consumes 20% of GDP, and once they’ve priced the poor out of the market with all of their YOU CAN’T, then they demand more power and money from everyone to fix the problem they created.

          YOU CAN’T get an education unless it’s the right education from the right people.

          YOU CAN’T get a job unless you have the right piece of paper from the right person. And not that job, we don’t like that job, so you get nothing.


          Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you chose to react to it. I had a shitty childhood and I don’t speak to a single blood relative, and the best thing society can do for me is to get right the fuck out of my way. I got this, brah. Now leave me alone.

          1. The fact that you’re spewing garbage like this on a “libertarian” website is a clear indication that you were educated wrong. There are right things to learn and a right way to learn them. People who are better than you know both of those things.


          2. Dude you are on a roll.

            Hamster of Doom in his hamster ball, crushing it. 😉

      3. The reason I am a libertarian is because I don’t care about everyone.

        It is impossible to do so. And anyone who argues otherwise is at their core a fascist who wants to control everyone.

    2. let an incompetent destroy a child

      You’re talking about the teacher’s union status quo, right ?

    3. And who would decide which parents are incompetent? Leftist state bureaucrats who can and never will be fired or jailed for destroying yours and your children’s lives, that’s who. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

    4. And who would decide which parents are incompetent? Leftist state bureaucrats who can and never will be fired or jailed for destroying yours and your children’s lives, that’s who. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

  8. As a whole, this year’s GOP plank on K?12 education doesn’t differ all that much from the past. Yet the fact that committee members felt strongly enough to call for formally altering the U.S. Constitution is noteworthy?especially coming from a party that as recently as four years ago seemed perfectly comfortable with having some state government involvement in public schools.

    Oh hell no. There’s no way I trust these yahoos with a Constitutional Convention.

    1. ^This. Also, the convention wouldn’t be just for them, the progs would show up with laundry lists of free stuff they want and grievances they want addressed.

      1. It’s actually a recurring theme in lots of… survivalist/conservative/libertarian fiction.

  9. Educating schoolchildren is not something the federal government should have anything to do with. Also, I don’t see the part where it says those parents have the right to pay for their children’s education and leave the rest of us out of it.

  10. Presumably they need a constitutional amendment so that we can spend tax money teaching young-earth creationism to the kids.

    1. That would be awful, it’s better to teach the kids that FDR saved capitalism – and that’s if the kids learn anything at all.

      1. Why do rightwingers speak of schools as if they didn’t ever attend one?

        1. One of my HS teachers was an out-and-out Marxist.

          I told her I wanted a classless society, and at first she didn’t know I was joking.

          1. The sad expression on her face when she realized I was just making a bad pun…I felt kind of guilty.

          2. I never had a Marxist teacher that I know of. I did study under a prominent neoconservative, but he was the only one who ever really made a fuss about politics. Mostly they just taught their subjects.

            1. Well, I never suggested that anyone else was to blame for your political viewpoints.

            2. You self educated your self into this level of dumbassery?

              That takes serious effort man. Well done.

        2. Considering most rightwingers not only attended school, but public ones, how does this support your argument?

      2. Who makes you more nervous:

        -Some guy who was taught that the world was created in 4004 BC, as an Irish Protestant archbishop famously asserted


        -some guy who was taught that capitalism is a tool of white supremacy

        1. Well, the first is a lie, and the second is at least a hypothesis.

          Alex Jones’s website is not the premier source of current information on what kids are being taught in school, just fyi.

          1. They’re *both* hypotheses, they just don’t happen to match the evidence.

            1. A benighted creationist won’t cause a billionth of the immiseration a devoted Communist can achieve.

              1. There are very few communists in this country, and they aren’t engaging in a decades-long crusade to take over education. The capitalists and the creationists are the ones doing that.

                1. Best of luck to the capitalists, then, I think they’re going to need it, due to the opposition of the “don’t dare call us communist” crowd.

                2. Economic Marxists, perhaps not, but only because that’s abstruse and mathy.

                  Cultural Marxists are cemented into place with rebar.

                  1. And I would prefer avowed hardcore commies to the commie-lite Keynesians. Sure, they generally don’t advocate nationalizing industries, just controlling the purse-strings with monetary and fiscal management.

                  2. This is where I remind you that you are literally spouting Nazi propaganda.

                    1. Yes, communists had no worrisome ongoing efforts throughout Europe preceding the rise of the Nazis. But do tell me what else I have in common with a nationalist socialist party.

                    2. And Christ, Tony, that was worse than crying bigot. You played the most hackneyed card from your Out of Talking Points deck.

                    3. This is where I remind you that you’re not really the sharpest knife in the drawer.

                      Cultural Marxists aren’t part of a conspiracy any more than parrots are part of a conspiracy to repeat whatever they hear.

                    4. Imagine a parrot who *thinks* he knows what he’s talking about.

                      To shift away from parrot analogies – they started by saying “how dare you call us socialists!” and now they’ve moved on to “but we’re *democratic* socialists!”

                      Of course, their commitment to democracy has a few limits – like they don’t want people voting on issues like marriage or abortion or school financing or various other minor issues like that…the Vanguard decides what policies are good, the voters simply select the best people to enact these policies.

                    5. If we’re lucky, they’re vanguard communists in the mold of Mussolini. If not, Lenin. In either case, democracy is a thing meant to be shaped toward an end of the vanguard’s choosing, not (god forbid) a popular referendum. And we’re well and truly fucked if either wields appreciable power over industry.

  11. I tend to be skeptical of “constitutional amendment politics.”

    In practice, it means “we put the onus on ourselves to get 2/3 of each house of Congress, plus 3/4 of the states, on board with our idea.” And generally they know in advance that this isn’t going to happen.

    This is particularly galling when the *existing* constitution already does much of what the proposed amendment would do, but the existing constitutional provisions are ignored, so what assurance do we have we can address the problem by passing another amendment which will in turn be ignored?

    Specifically, the 9th and 10th Amendments *already* protect parents against the federal government and the United Nations when it comes to educational freedom.

    As for education freedom at the state level, we have a 14th Amendment. Now, I agree that many of the sponsors of the 14th Amendment were also enthusiasts for government schools, so the framers of that amendment weren’t exactly educational libertarians. Nonetheless, as the Supreme Court acknowledged in the 1920s (in Pierce v. Society of Sisters and Meyer v. Nebraska), the 14th Amendment does protect *some* educational freedom by parents, at least to the extent that they can send their kids to private schools on their own dime. And a little extension of these precedents should protect homeschooling, too.

    So to get taken seriously, in addition to proposing a new amendment, the Republicans should pledge to enforce the amendments we already have.

    1. When Republicans say “we need a constitutional amendment hurr durr,” what I hear is them quietly reassuring their squishy RINO brethren, “don’t worry, we’ll just hold some symbolic votes to fool the rubes, there’s not way this will pass.”

      1. Exactly this.

      2. Fusionist
        “… “don’t worry, we’ll just hold some symbolic votes to fool the rubes,…”

        Yeah, fuck using the current power of the Constitution to actually control the purse strings funding education to more immediately secure the rights of parents.

        Where is the time honored practice of extortion exercised by the department of education to get what it wants from states? They can force the elimination of due process at schools/universities and control what little kids can put in their mouth on school grounds but telling states to leave parents alone is not attainable. Let’s engage in a dragged out amendment process that will provide cover for years. The Equal Rights Amendment had a 10 year deadline.

    2. And yet it’s been done many times, and many court cases are decided on the amendments, and many of them are so uncontroversial they haven’t even gone to court (like 2 terms only for prez & VP). Besides, it seems the issue of home schooling is popular enough that amending the US Const. in its favor is at least plausible, while getting favorable rulings under the existing legal regime of state & federal constitutions is not a shoo-in.

  12. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.


  13. Is there room in that amendment for massive truckloads of pork, cronyism, and overall civil rights killing bullshit? If so, we may actually get this thing to a vote.

    1. It doesn’t outlaw any of those things, so, sure.

  14. Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children.

    If you listen carefully, you can hear HuffPo having a mass aneurysm.

  15. Let me run this up the flagpole:

    If a candidate is nominated on a platform promising various stuff, then ask the candidate if he’s willing to put some money in escrow, under the superintendence of unbiased experts, with instructions to give the money back at the end of his term of office *if* they find he’s actually done all he could to implement the platform. Otherwise, the money goes to his political opponents.

    And if at any time during his term he realizes that the platform is against the public interest and he cannot constitutionally carry it out, he resigns and gets his money back a reward for his integrity, and a successor who *isn’t* pledged to the platform will then take over.

    1. constitutionally should be conscientiously

    2. I can see a hole in your idea.

      *black horse candidate promises to give away the shop

      *puts money into escrow, runs and wins on promises

      *resigns shortly afterward, collects money

      *candidate who put him up takes over

      1. Okay, a politician willing to resign from office as part of an elaborate plot would be able to game my system.

        I’m kind of hoping that the desire to hold onto office will be in play here.

        1. I’m just thinking the successor needs a vetting, maybe a referendum or another fiduciary inducement like you describe.


    1. Finally! My kid’s teacher has been doing a shitty job.

      1. Helicopter rides are cool.

    2. Racist! What about white helicopter parents?

  17. you’re never going to have state and local and parental control of education as long as the Federal Government pays for any of it. Ban federal education expenditures and mandates.

  18. the best thing society can do for me is to get right the fuck out of my way.


  19. It takes a significant effort and a large number of discussions with your children to keep the school system from turning them into mind numbed socialist robots…

    Good to see the GOP noticing that parents need the authority to prevent this.

    Many of the progressive role model governments in Europe actively fight parents school choices for their children.

  20. Seems like a good idea, except for the pesky matter of “upbringing” & especially of “care”. Care of children is a slippery slope where both ends are unacceptable, and hence any “rights” conception fails at providing an honest place to stop in the middle. Whether such a constitutional amendment was in place or not, parents would never be allowed to openly do certain mean things (fail to do certain necessary things) in the care of children. Yet even in the absence of such a constitutional amendment, custom favors leaving parents alone unless they deviate from normal in such regard. There’s always going to be tension between the rights of parents and the independently-conceived rights of children, especially when they are conceived to have interests they can’t articulate. After all, that’s essentially what the abortion issue is about, and we’ve seen what a thicket that is. (You may know where I am on that one, in that I think the assumption that in the default case living things want to keep living is an unwarranted one.)

    I think the “education” part of this is easy. The upbringing & care parts are likely to just lead in a circle, but a bigger one than now, with the US Constitution involved.

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