The AACS Legislative Office monitors issues that affect the educational freedom and religious liberty of Christian schools.
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The Washington Flyer
August 5, 2016

 “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Abraham Lincoln

 AACS Submits Public Comments for ESSA Regulations
The AACS submitted public comments regarding the proposed regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Passed last year with bipartisan support, ESSA reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind). The bill received praise from many Republicans for reducing the federal footprint in education by limiting the power of the Secretary of Education and by allowing states more power in decisions regarding testing accountability, teacher evaluations, and low performing schools. The language of the new law also specifically prohibits the establishment of a national standard, assessment, and teacher certification, and also maintains protection for the autonomy of private and home schools. Since President Obama signed the bill into law, the Department of Education has been working to write the regulations for implementation, and thus, published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making which provided a period for public comments. The comments submitted by AACS addressed three areas which needed to be changed or removed in order to reflect accurately the true nature of the law. Specifically, the AACS noted that the language of the regulations needed to be changed in order to make it clear that states are required to assure participation for private school children and teachers where applicable. The comments also urged the inclusion of the phrase “representatives of private school children” to the list of stakeholders that must be consulted in the development of a consolidated plan submitted by a state education agency. Finally, the AACS urged removal of the rule that requires a state education agency to “provide evidence” to the federal government to support its selected standards. The AACS noted that keeping such language in the regulations would create a loophole in which the government could still require the use of a national standard like the Common Core Standards, even though this is explicitly prohibited in the law. The comments concluded: “AACS appreciates the fact that America is a diverse country founded on the principles of liberty, which have produced many distinctive approaches to education and learning that do not fit with the one-size-fits-all approach commonly preferred by the federal government. We believe the changes we are suggesting will help carry out the intent and letter of the law as passed and will continue to provide the flexibility needed for our schools to continue to work with other educators in providing excellent education to the thousands of families and students enrolled in our schools.”

Religious Liberty

Iowa Church Fights State Over Gender Identity Rule
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal aid group, has
filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, a small church in Iowa engaged in a dispute with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The legal battle ensued after the commission published a brochure laying out the state’s protections regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. The document stated that the Iowa Civil Rights Act protects the “rights” of all LGBT individuals in all places of public accommodation, including churches. According to ADF lawyer Christina Holcomb, the brochure stated that the state law was intended “to apply to churches anytime that they hold worship services that are open to the public, as all worship services are.” The church expressed deep concern that it could face legal problems by continuing to teach the biblical truth about homosexuality and by continuing to have sex-segregated facilities (i.e. restrooms). Four days after the church sued, the commission revised its brochure to slightly better language by clarifying that churches would be exempt from the state law “unless the place of worship engages in nonreligious activities which are open to the public.” However, Holcomb noted that a simple revision to a brochure does not assuage the concerns: “It just highlights that the commission has too much power, too much authority to try to apply the law to churches, which are not places of public accommodation. They are places of worship and should enjoy full and robust freedom under the First Amendment.”


Texas Parents Succeed in Pushing Back Obama’s Transgender Mandate
Texas parents have taken a stand against the transgender mandate issued by the Obama administration earlier this year. According to the guidance letter issued the Administration, all public schools must allow students to use the bathroom and locker room of their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex or concerns from other students. Additionally, the Administration specified that a student’s gender choice is under his own discretion and parents do not have to be notified nor offer consent. Any school failing to comply with the guidance risked the loss of federal funding. The mandate has met strong criticism, with parents expressing grave concern over the problems the mandate would create for their children’s safety and privacy. In a recent Daily Signal
article, author Leah Jessen notes that specifically in Fort Worth, Texas, parents succeeded in pushing back on the implementation of the mandate. Parents spoke up in meetings and forums and formed groups to express their concerns. Jessen notes, “The school district, comprised of 143 schools and 87,000 students, said it received comment from 235 individuals, including 119 separate emails.” The collective voice of the parents gave the needed pressure to the school board and caused the officials to modify their district guidelines. The new guidelines state that requests by transgender students for access to opposite-sex bathrooms will now be handled on a case-by-case basis, with the goal being to provide a “safe and supportive environment for students impacted by the accommodation with due recognition of the privacy rights of all students.”


In Case You Missed It:

Weekly Market Update provided by Jeff Beach of the AACS Investment Team at Merrill Lynch

Supreme Court May Be Converting On Religion

Congressmen Recognize 60th Anniversary of National Motto "In God We Trust"

National Legislative Conference Early Registration Ends August 15
Don’t miss the AACS the National Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 12–14.
Register by August 15 to receive the special conference rate on your hotel room and the discounted registration fee.

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

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