Mike Farris: Hi, I’m Mike Farris from Home School Legal Defense Association. And we’ve extended an open invitation to all the current presidential candidates to talk with us about their views on their candidacy in general and especially the federal government’s role in education.
Our first guest today is Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Senator, welcome to the program!
Sen. Marco Rubio: Thank you for having me on.
Mike: Senator, why are you running for president?
Sen. Rubio: I think America is the greatest country in the world, but it’s headed in the wrong direction—fast—after seven years of Barack Obama. He’s undermining the Constitution, he’s trying to redefine the role of government in our lives, including our schools, he’s diminished America’s standing in the world. And if we have another four years like this, we’re going to leave our children worse off than ourselves. No Americans have ever done that before.
So I’m running for president because I know I can defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or people that agree with the President. And I can help turn this country around, so that we can re-embrace all the things that made it great.
Mike: Senator, I’ve heard you give strong, bold public proclamations of your faith in Christ in various formats over the course of your candidacy. Can you tell us what role your faith will play in your service as president?
Sen. Rubio: My faith is the single greatest influence in my life. And so it will influence my decisions as president, not because I seek to impose my beliefs—as a Christian, I can’t impose my beliefs. Christianity is the free gift of salvation that has to be accepted willingly. But it does teach me that I have to care for the less fortunate. It teaches me that the way to serve Christ is to serve my neighbor and to love one another. It also teaches me that the most important job and the most influential role I will ever play is to be a husband to my wife and a father to my children.
And so as president I will continue to obviously fulfill my obligations to the nation, but it will influence me in terms of how I view issues, because I view them through the lens of my faith that says that I am to glorify God in everything I do.
Mike: Senator, thank you so much for that. It’s really encouraging to hear a person boldly profess their faith in Christ.
Turning to the issue of education, what role do you think the federal government should have in education—particularly how that affects the private school and homeschool world. I know your children attend a private Christian school. Tell us about your views of education and especially homeschooling.
Sen. Rubio: Well, there’s two separate kinds, there’s two divisions in education. Higher education—post-secondary education—the federal government is the biggest payer of that through pell grants and student loans. And I want to see those programs improved.
Pre-K through 12—that is primarily almost entirely a local government function, of school boards. And in a sense, my history, going back to my time in the Florida legislature and as speaker of the Florida House [of Representatives], is I want to empower parents. I think parents need to be the final and ultimate arbiter of what their children learn, where they learn, and how.
Mike: What’s your experience been with homeschooling families, what’s your interaction, what’s your view of homeschooling?
Marco Rubio: Well, we have a lot of friends that homeschool. In fact, during the campaign, there will be elements of homeschooling that we’ll use. My kids’ school in South Florida has a sort of homeschooling component of their curriculum, which we’ll be able to use when we’re on the road with our kids during the campaign.
But in general, I think it’s not only a valid way to teach your children, you see from the empirical evidence that homeschool children are outperforming many children attending traditional schools. I believe in parental choice—homeschooling, faith-based schools, private school of your choosing, what public school you want to go to instead of the one you’re zoned for. But I view homeschooling, and especially the explosion of homeschooling in America over the last 15 years, as a great development that we’ve seen. And we see how well homeschoolers are performing once they’re getting into college and universities across the country.
Mike: One of the issues that’s of big concern to a lot of parents, including the homeschooling community is the whole Common Core. What’s your view on the Common Core, and what would you do about it if elected president?
Marco Rubio: Well, I don’t think there’s anything bad about curriculum. You certainly want to improve curriculum at schools, and I think it belongs to states to decide what curriculum, how they want to improve their public school curriculum.
In terms of private schools and homeschoolers, parents should be able to decide what curriculum they’re teaching. And I would say one of the great things that’s developed is a great variety of online resources and parent groups and others that provide some great curriculum choices—blended choices between multiple different curriculums.
What I don’t want to see is the federal government decides, “Here’s the set of standards. And you’re either going to follow this set of standards that we’ve decided at the federal level, or you’re going to lose your federal funding.” I don’t want to see that happen at all, and in fact as president I will oppose that. In fact, I don’t even think we need a department of education. Student loans and pell grants—these programs, they could be transferred to the treasury. We don’t need a national school board.
Mike: I know that you’ll get a lot of “amens” on that subject. And it’s important that you point out the general principle of the Common Core is centralized curriculum at the federal level. It’s had several names over the last decade or more, and I appreciate your broad answer on that question.
Senator, I know from your service in the Senate, particularly on the Foreign Relations Committee, that you’ve been a strong voice for American sovereignty and our families by your opposition to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These treaties have great-sounding names—what would you do about these treaties like the Convention on the Right of the Child and others that seek to impose UN control over American domestic policy?
Sen. Rubio: That’s exactly right. I mean, they have great-sounding names, and so they are used as a weapon against those who oppose them. They argue that, “Oh, you’re not voting for that. You must not care about the disabled.” And, “You’re not voting for that. You must not care about children.” Or, “You must not care about women.” It’s absurd. Just because they are called something that sounds good doesn’t mean it’s good.
Ultimately, every treaty in this country is a surrender of sovereignty. Now, in some cases, like arms control and others, it may make sense for America. But in these specific instances, these are allowing the United States to now be bound internationally by standards set by other countries with whom we don’t share values or culture. Many of these countries don’t have a First Amendment or anything like it. Many of these countries don’t have the Judeo-Christian foundation that influenced the framing of our Constitution and ultimately of our laws.
And I would say that when it comes to the treatment of children, the treatment of the disabled, there’s no country in the world that does it better than we do now. That doesn’t mean we can’t seek to improve. But I think there’s no country that does it better than we do now. And to somehow subject America to international guidelines that now bind us in international law is not something that I’m supportive of. And I think the most important thing that we can do to help children in America is to empower family and parents, not empower the United Nations or some intergovernmental, international body.
Mike: Our final question is: You’ve publicly announced your support for the Convention of the States project—tell us about that, and why you’re supporting it.
Sen. Rubio: Because I believe it’s the only way we’re ever going to get term limits on Congress, term limits on judges, and a balanced budget amendment. The framers of our Constitution were genius. They put in Article V of the Constitution a process by which citizens can take control of the federal government. I think the time has come to do that in these instances. This convention of states would not open up the First Amendment or the Second Amendment or in any way undermine existing constitutional rights. But it would create new requirements on the federal government. And that is to put limits on Congress, term limits on the Supreme Court, and a balanced budget amendment on our spending.
Mike: Well Senator Rubio, we wish you well in the upcoming race. We pray that God would give you guidance, and thank you so much for taking the time with us today.
Sen. Rubio: Well, I appreciate you having me on. Thank you, and God bless all you listeners. And if you’re in Iowa, I encourage you to go out Monday evening to your caucus site and vote for me.