Opposition to PAT Programs Startles U.S. Congress
Parents as Teachers (PAT) programs being established in many states are dangerous because they persuade parents of a “need” to allow the government to teach them how to raise their own children. A family involved in a PAT program generally meets with a “parent educator” or social worker on a regular basis for advice on how to be a better parent. Social workers determine whether or not the family’s children should be considered “at risk” for future school failure. It is significant that nearly 75% of all families interviewed are determined to be “at risk.”
The true character of PAT programs is manifest when parents decide to ignore the advice of the “parent educator” or choose to withdraw from the program. HSLDA knows of many parents who were told by their social workers that if the family dropped out, a report would have to be given to the Child Welfare Agency for determination of whether going against “recommended services” amounted to child abuse.
In Hawaii information gathered through PAT programs is distributed to at least six other agencies. Minnesota PAT lending libraries have censored religious books on child training and have concluded that spanking is a form of child abuse. The advice families receive from a “parent educator” is usually humanistic in nature and void of Judeo-Christian values.
Unfortunately several conservative U.S. Senators support PAT programs in the name of helping families and supporting President Bush’s efforts for educational reform. It is no secret that quality parental interaction with children is necessary for success in school, and the first of the six National Goals for Education drafted by the nation’s governors at their summit meeting over two years ago focused on this need: “By the year 2000, all children in American will start school ready to learn.”
On March 5, 1991, Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri introduced S.551 to provide $20 million of federal seed money which would encourage states to establish Parents as Teachers programs. After remaining stagnant almost a year, HSLDA was informed that Senator Bond planned to offer S.551 as an amendment to the National Education Act (S.2), sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy.
The National Center for Home Education generated an alert to home school leaders in all fifty states, and many state home school leaders decided to notify their constituents. Your phone trees work! Several senators’ offices were surprised that they received hundreds of calls regarding what they considered to be an unimportant issue. The intensity of the pressure motivated Senator Bond to withdraw his amendment on January 27, 1992. Conversations with legislative aides have revealed that Congress is very aware of home schoolers and concerned about offending them.
Senator Bond was recently interviewed on Marlin Maddoux’s radio broadcast in order to counter opposition to PAT programs. Attorney Chris Klicka was also a guest on that same program. Klicka was later contacted by Senator Bond’s legislative aide with a request for information on what could be done to make Bond’s bill palatable for home schoolers. Klicka responded that many families would never support PAT programs because they encourage family dependence on &lduqo;Big Mother” instead of religious or other private institutions.
Senator Bond countered with the suggestion of several amendments which would protect home schoolers’ rights if they should unwittingly participate in a PAT program, and protective language has been added. Now Bond’s PAT funding bill has been attached to the text of S.1275 in (Part 6 of Section 3). This bill will be voted on sometime in June. In a letter to Senator Bond, Klicka pointed out five reasons why the Senator should discontinue his sponsorship of federal support for PAT programs. Klicka stated that the services PAT programs offer to families are already available in every community through both the private organizations and various community health services. PAT programs would thus duplicate those efforts, wasting tax dollars. Child rearing needs to remain in the capable hands of the private sector. PAT programs tend to create an unnatural dependency on government in lieu of encouraging parents to fulfill their responsibilities in rearing their own children. Furthermore, PAT programs facilitate humanistic philosophies of child rearing and foster a general bias against spanking. Although Senator Bond was not convinced that he needed to stop supporting PAT programs, his aide began to show an interest in home schooling her own children. Meanwhile, the education aide to Senator Dan Coates, a co-sponsor of the PAT legislation was referred to HSLDA by Senator Bond’s aide. After carefully reviewing the material we provided, Senator Coates reported through his aide that he was withdrawing his support of the PAT bill. HSLDA has also contacted Senator Thad Cochran’s office and as of early April was still awaiting response. Please pray that more conservative sponsors will withdraw their support for this legislation (along with its companion bill in the House, H.R.520) and that the truth will be made known about the dangers of PAT programs.
A History of the PAT Programs: &lduqo;Big Mother” Offers Parent Training Programs
Home schoolers and others who believe in parental control of education should be concerned about Parents as Teachers programs now sweeping the states. Parents as Teachers (PAT) programs threaten more governmental intrusion into American family life and reinforce the bankrupt notion that the government should control education and child rearing. PAT programs also promote home visits by government workers to observe and direct parental training of children, a characteristic which raises constitutional concerns.
Missouri launched the first PAT program in 1981. Directed at preschool children, this program began as a pilot project in four school districts at a cost of $30,000 for each district. The Missouri program now covers 100,000 children at an annual cost of $15 million. Forty states and eight foreign nations currently have PAT programs. In March 1991 President Bush and all 50 governors announced as a goal that by the year 2000, all parents will have access to the training and support they need to be their children’s first teachers.
Proponents of PAT programs say that new parents are ill-prepared to rear children; thus, they need guidance and direction from the government. Many factors such as drug abuse, divorce, working mothers, etc. fracture families and affect student performance in school.
Extended families cannot provide help for new parents, according to PAT supporters. In the past, extended families (grandparents and other relatives) and neighbors helped support and train new parents in child rearing. Since the extended family no longer exists, according to PAT advocates, government must fill the gap and train parents.
Program supporters also say that many parents passively abdicate all oversight of their child(ren)’s education to school officials. Parents are rarely involved in PTA or other school organizations, and few parents attend teacher conferences to learn about their child(ren)’s progress at school. These are the problems PAT programs were designed to address.
James S. Coleman, professor of education and sociology at the University of Chicago was quoted in Education Week as saying, “Traditionally, the school has needed the support and sustenance provided by the family in its task of educating children. Increasingly, the family itself needs support and sustenance from the school—and through the school, from the other families with children in the school—in its task of raising children.”