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Parochial education

Do we truly need any more examples of the Kansas Legislature's misguided willingness to control what is taught in public classrooms rather than provide suitable funding to educate children?

Apparently, we do. The House Education Committee advanced legislation last week that "would prohibit the board of education of any school district from providing instruction on human sexuality to a student without the written consent of the student's parent or legal guardian."

Interesting that sex education gets singled out for special consideration, as opposed to any other subject matter. Unlike mathematics, social studies, history, language arts, science or anything else being taught in the state's schools, House Bill 2620 would make it a law that "all instructional materials on human sexuality, including teaching plans and syllabi, to parents or legal guardians who request such materials before they decide whether to provide consent."

This sounds less like an educational concern than a reflection of somebody's morals. Even more to the point, it strikes us as an attempt to impose a specific value judgment on everybody else -- and cleverly disguised as concern for the child's welfare or the parent's sensibilities.

A look at who provided testimony to the House committee confirms the hypothesis. The Kansas Association of School Boards, Kansas National Education Association and the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence all stood in opposition to the bill. Supporting the proposed state-sanctioned meddling in local affairs was the American Family Association.

In case you need reminding, AFA bills itself as a "champion of Christian activism." The formerly named National Federation for Decency believes "that a culture based on biblical truth best serves the well-being of our nation and our families" and "that all people are subject to the authority of God's Word at all times."

Such political viewpoints have welcome audience in Topeka nowadays. And, because of the super-majorities enjoyed by conservatives in both chambers of the Capitol as well as the governor's office, it isn't difficult to pass and enact laws clearly favoring a Trinitarian Christian perspective.

Not difficult, but clearly unconstitutional at both the federal and state level. Article 7 of the Kansas Bill of Rights prohibits "any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship." The same establishment clause is found in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Yet the fiscal note for HB 2620 suggests no effect on the state budget. The sponsors of this micro-managing intrusion clearly did not consult the Kansas Attorney General's office. State AG Derek Schmidt generally inserts a liberal amount of taxpayer dollars he expects to spend defending laws that likely will be struck down after the first legal challenge.

We would encourage state legislators once again to focus on the only appropriate charge they have when it comes to public education -- paying for it.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net