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The AACS Legislative Office monitors issues that affect the educational freedom and religious liberty of Christian schools.
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The Washington Flyer
March 18, 2016
 
“A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it.”
Frederick Douglass
 
U.S. Senate Confirms John King as Secretary of Education
On Monday, the Senate voted 49-40 to
confirm Dr. John King, Jr., to be Secretary of Education. Dr. King has been serving as Acting Secretary since Arne Duncan resigned at the end of 2015. Prior to joining the Department of Education, he served as the Education Commissioner of New York state where he was a strong proponent of the Common Core Standards and assessments and student data tracking. Last month, he was nominated by President Obama to be Education Secretary in order to further the Administration’s education agenda of expanding public preschool and reforming higher education. Seven Republican Senators joined the Democrats in voting to confirm King as Secretary, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), who serves as the Chairman for the HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions). In explaining his support, Sen. Alexander offered the following statement: “This vote is not about whether one of us would have chosen Dr. King to be the education secretary. Republicans won’t have the privilege of picking an education secretary until we elect the president of the United States. We need a United States Education Secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate so that the law to fix No Child Left Behind will be implemented the way Congress wrote it.” However, several Senators opposed his confirmation, citing problems with his leadership when he served as New York’s Education Commissioner. For example, his efforts to implement the Common Core Standards received much criticism from parents and teachers, and resulted in thousands of families opting out of the Common Core testing. School boards in New York wrote letters and passed resolutions opposing Dr. King’s confirmation, with one stating, “We cannot help but conclude that amplifying Dr. King’s abject failure as the leader of the educational establishment in New York state to the federal level is good for no one.” While there are only months left in the Administration’s term, Dr. King’s appointment is significant as the Department of Education has the task of writing the regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was recently signed into law to replace No Child Left Behind. ESSA includes strong language which limits the power of the Education Secretary, prohibits the establishment of national standards, and drives more decision-making control away from the federal government back towards the local level. While those supporting his nomination believe an Education Secretary is needed to proceed with the implementation of ESSA, others hold a grave concern that Dr. King’s educational philosophy is contrary to the principles put forth in the new law and, therefore, will result in regulations that do not reflect the spirit and letter of the law.
 

Religious Liberty 

Georgia Governor Opposes Religious Liberty Bill
Caving to political pressure, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has indicated he will not sign the First Amendment Defense Act recently passed by the state senate. The
religious liberty bill would protect, among other things, the religious liberty of those who act according to the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The bill was first passed by the state house and was written to protect pastors from being forced to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, religious organizations from having to rent their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are contrary to their beliefs, and businesses that close on Saturday or Sunday because of religious beliefs. The Senate then added an amendment which prohibits discriminatory action against any individual who acts in accordance to his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The bill has been sent back to the House for consideration with the added language. However, under immense pressure from big companies, the governor has stated he will not sign a bill that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” and he has rebuked conservatives, citing Scripture and telling them to calm down. Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle disagrees, however, saying the bill “in no way interferes with our world-class tourism or business communities whatsoever. We are simply ensuring that no Georgian suffers at the hand of our government for their view on marriage.” Reportedly, the office of the House Speaker is meeting with the office of the governor to work on amending the bill.


 

Pro Life

Church Files Lawsuit Over the State Forcing Abortion Coverage
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has recently filed a
lawsuit on behalf of a church that is being forced to provide health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. The suit has been filed against the California Department of Managed Health Care and is similar to a federal lawsuit ADF filed last year on behalf of several other churches in the state. ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley contended that, “Churches should not be forced to pay for the killing of innocent human life. The government has no right to demand that church health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions—something that violates the most sincerely held religious beliefs of this church and nearly all churches throughout the state. California is violating its own laws and constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, by strong-arming churches into having this coverage in their plans.” State officials are claiming that the California constitution and existing law prohibits discrimination against women who choose to terminate pregnancy, calling it “basic health care coverage.” However, a federal law—the Hyde-Weldon amendment—actually prohibits governments (including state governments) from discriminating against health care entities that do not cover abortions. Additionally, the California state senate passed a bill last fall that requires all pro-life clinics to offer abortion information and promote the clinics that offer them. In a recent press release, ADF references a recent poll which shows that more than 80% of Americans (including pro-choice advocates) believe there should be some restrictions on abortion, adding further proof that California state officials are not only regulating against the law but also against popular opinion.






 

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American Association of Christian Schools
Jamison Coppola: Legislative Director
Maureen Van Den Berg: Policy Analyst

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