Yesterday, as Iowa homeschoolers lobbied their legislators to “simplify” state education regulations, three potential presidential candidates spoke to the crowd of several hundred, all agreeing that government should not “interfere” in education. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul each addressed the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) as the group held its annual Capitol Day, with Bachmann and Paul describing the government as “a threat.”
This appeal has special resonance in Iowa because twenty years ago, before the current homeschooling law was passed after a contentious battle, homeschoolers in Iowa faced truancy and their parents even faced child abuse charges.
Paul, a longtime homeschooling advocate, said, “if we strictly followed the constitution we wouldn’t have a Department of Education.” Though he said that “government shouldn’t interfere with parents,” he holds the decidedly non-libertarian position that government should help with the costs of homeschooling. Indeed, he touted his support for homeschoolers in the form of a proposed $5000 federal tax credit for homeschool expenses or private school tuition.
Successful businessman and former CEO of the Godfather’s Pizza chain Herman Cain (the only one of the three with an announced formal exploratory committee) took a similar stand, as quoted on Statesman.com:
Get government out of the way of our education so we can educate ourselves and our children. There are some people in our government who aren’t interested in the same things that you and I are interested in. They are trying to create some kind of world order.
Bachmann touted her background as an Iowan and a homeschool mom. She told the crowd: “The family has a level of authority that the government may have trampled on. We need to make sure that families enjoy their untrammeled right without state interference.”
The case for the centrality of family authority and the defense of homeschooling and Christian schooling against the “usurpation” of that authority by government was developed by Rushdoony as early as the 1960s. As I wrote last October, in the context of Vision Forum’s film festival:
Whether through homeschooling or Christian schools, the goal is to “replace” public education… is considered unbiblical. According to Reconstructionism, the Bible gives authority for education to families—not the state—and the Bible does not give the state the authority to tax people to pay for the education of other peoples’ children. Reconstructionists are therefore opposed to public education, not only for their own children, but at all. They long have been proponents of dismantling the federal Department of Education and reducing funding for public education at every opportunity.
Many attribute Mike Huckabee’s early success in the 2008 primaries to his support among homeschoolers in Iowa. Having been tutored in political activism for decades by organizations such as Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to work to minimize state regulation, homeschoolers are already well-organized and invested in politics. Homeschoolers going on to colleges such as Patrick Henry in Purcellville, Virginia often boast on their applications that they have first-hand campaign experience as part of their home study of American government. This time, other candidates are actively courting this important component of the evangelical vote.