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What Does Ted Cruz Think about Homeschooling?

February 12–14, 2016   |   Vol. 126, Feature 2

We’ve invited all the 2016 presidential candidates to chat with us about homeschooling and education. Today’s guest is Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Join us now for this Homeschool Heartbeat special feature!

“Education is too important, I believe, for it to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.”—Ted Cruz

(You can also listen to our interviews with Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.)

Mike Farris: I’m Mike Farris from HSLDA. And we’ve extended an open invitation to all of the current presidential candidates to talk with us about their candidacy and their views on the federal government’s role in education and related topics.

Our guest today—very special guest—is Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. Senator, welcome to the program!

Sen. Ted Cruz: Well Mike, thank you for having me, and thank you for your long and passionate defense of the right of every parent to educate our children and to teach them our values and our faith—I’m proud. You and I have been friends for many, many years, and I’m so proud of your relentless and passionate defense of parents and children all across this country.

Mike: That’s very kind of you, Senator. And I reciprocate those kind remarks by thanking you for being my friend for a long time, and being a friend of homeschooling.

I’d like to ask you first: Why are you running for president?

Sen. Cruz: Well, I’m running for president because our country is in crisis. We have gotten away from the principles and values that built this country. We have gotten away from the free market principles and constitutional liberties and Judeo-Christian values that have been the foundation of making America the greatest nation in the history of the world. And we are, right now, badly off track. We’re bankrupting our kids and grandkids, we’re seeing our constitutional rights under assault from Washington each and every day. And we’ve seen America recede from leadership of the world. And it’s made the world a much more dangerous place. And I’ll tell you, right now I fear for the country that my daughters are inheriting if we keep on this path. And so I’m running to bring us back to the principles that built America, and to reignite the promise of America.

Mike: Senator, I know that we share a common faith in Christ. Will you tell us what role your faith will play in your service as president?

Sen. Cruz: Well, sure. I’m a Christian—it’s an integral part of who I am. I became a Christian when I was 8 years old at the summer youth camp of Clay Road Baptist Church. And it is—being born again, being saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus—is central to who I am. It’s central to my family. My wife Heidi is the daughter of Christian missionaries. She lived as a little girl two different times in Africa when her parents were missionaries over there. And it impacts every aspect of my life.

Now that being said, I am running for public office, and the public office that I’m running for is not to be pastor-in-chief. And so it’s not the responsibility of a civic official to be delivering the salvation message—that’s our responsibility individually as Christians, the responsibility of pastors and of the church. But my responsibility both as a United States Senator, and if I’m elected president, is to defend the constitutional rights of every American. To fight for every American so that we have the freedom to achieve the American dream. To achieve the hopes and dreams of our kids and our grandkids, and to keep this country safe. The very first responsibility of the president is to protect America and keep this country safe. And as commander-in-chief, that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Mike: Turning to the issue of education, what role do you think the federal government should have in the subject of education—particularly how it affects both private schools and homeschools?

Sen. Cruz: Well, I don’t think the federal government should have any role in education. I am a constitutionalist, and I have spent my entire adult life fighting to defend the Constitution and fighting to defend the Bill of Rights. Under the Tenth Amendment, the powers not given to the federal government are reserved to the states and to the people. And so if I’m elected president, in the very first days in office, I intend to instruct the federal Department of Education that Common Core ends that day. Now, the reason that that can be accomplished is because Barack Obama has abused executive power in forcing Common Core on the states. And particularly the Department of Education has used the Race to the Top fund to effectively blackmail or bribe the states to adopt the Common Core standards. That will end in the opening days of January of next year if I am elected.

Beyond that, I believe we should abolish the federal Department of Education altogether—that we ought to block-grant that money, send it back to the states, send it to the local governments. And you know sometimes, folks in the press will characterize those of us who want to end the federal role in education as somehow being opposed to education. But you know, Mike, it’s exactly the opposite. Education is too important, I believe, for it to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington. It needs to be at the state level, or even better at the local level, where parents have direct control over the education of our kids.

Mike: What has been your personal experience with homeschooling families, and your view of homeschooling in general?

Sen. Cruz: I have been blessed to have had the support of homeschoolers in Texas and throughout the country from the very beginning. Homeschoolers were critical to my being elected to the Senate in the state of Texas. And we have nationally a coalition of over 6,000 homeschool leaders nationwide who have joined our coalition. I would mention to anyone listening, it you want to be part of the homeschool coalition, you can sign up at TedCruz.org.

Now, the individual who led our team in Iowa, a former pastor named Brian English, was a homeschooler. Many members of our staff and political team are homeschoolers. And it is because the fundamental liberty each of us has to teach our children, to raise our children—the right of the parent, I believe, should not be superseded by government. And I have spent decades fighting to defend the rights of parents, and fighting to defend school choice. I think school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. And I think school choice should include all of the above. Every form of school choice, whether it’s public schools or charter schools or private schools or parochial schools or scholarships or tax credits or homeschooling. I think all of the forms of school choice are choices that parents are entitled to make, that they should be able to make, and that the federal government should not be doing anything to frustrate their ability to ensure that their children get the very best education possible. Because education is foundational to opportunity, to access to the American dream.

Mike: Senator, there have been a few self-described researchers who’ve expressed concerns about the bill that you are a co-sponsor of, sponsored by our good friend Mike Lee, Senate Bill 306—that gives homeschoolers fair and equal access to savings accounts, the ability to participate in the Coverdell savings account programs. Can you respond to these criticisms: that people claim that the language of this bill would give the federal government the power to change definitions of homeschooling, and run away with federal control, and homeschool liberties would be abused by this bill that you and Mike Lee are supporting?

Sen. Cruz: Well sure, Mike, and I appreciate your raising that. As you know, those allegations are baseless, and they are being pushed primarily by a blogger or two who appear to be supporting Donald Trump and trying to spread misinformation. The legislation is legislation that Senator Mike Lee has introduced, who is a passionate supporter of homeschooling, as am I. And it’s legislation that simply eliminates the discrimination against homeschoolers currently in education savings accounts, so that if individuals choose to save their own money for educational purposes, they are allowed to spend their own money on homeschooling. And there’s no reason that federal law should discriminate against homeschoolers and treat them as second-class citizens. And as you know, the Home School Legal Defense Association has actively supported that legislation for a number of years, has spoken out in favor of eliminating discrimination against homeschoolers. And nothing in that legislation would open the door to even the teeniest bit of government regulation—and if it would, I would oppose it. I do not think the government has any business regulating homeschoolers, restricting their fundamental parental liberty. And allowing people to spend their own money in an education savings account to educate their kids is entirely consistent with that.

Mike: Senator, I know that we stood shoulder-to-shoulder to stop the loss of American sovereignty and the loss of families to be able to control their own destiny—families with disabilities—when we opposed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Can you tell us your general approach to these various UN conventions that have great-sounding names—Convention on the Rights of the Child, [the] disabilities treaty, CEDAW, the other cluster of UN human rights treaties—and their impact on America sovereignty? What’s your position on all of that?

Sen. Cruz: Well, I am passionately opposed to anything that would undermine American sovereignty. And unfortunately one of the patterns that we have seen more and more from the Left is efforts to go to international treaties, to go to international law, and to try to use them to undermine the constitutional rights of Americans, to undermine our Bill of Rights. And before I was in the Senate, I was the Solicitor General of Texas—which is the chief lawyer for the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. And in that role—I held that position five-and-a-half years—we led the nation defending conservative principles nationally. So we defended the Ten Commandments on the state capitol grounds, went to the Supreme Court—we won 5–4. We defended the Pledge of Allegiance, the words “one nation under God,” went to the Supreme Court and we won unanimously. And the biggest case of my tenure was a case called Medellin v. Texas, where we stood up and fought the United Nations and the World court, where the World court issued an order trying to order the United States justice system to re-open the convictions of 51 murderers across this country. And Texas stood up and fought the UN and the world court. I argued this case twice in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. On the other side, we had 90 foreign nations, we had the United Nations, we had the World court, and sadly we had the president of the United States. And Texas stood and fought to defend U.S. sovereignty. And we won 6–3, with the Supreme Court striking down the World court’s order.

And indeed, right after I was elected to the Senate, the Senate began taking on the treaty on disabilities. And I was newly elected, but hadn’t been sworn in yet, and one of the very first things that I did as a newly elected senator is: [I] argued vociferously to my colleagues in the Senate that they should not confirm this treaty, they should not ratify this treaty, because it could have the effect of undermining the rights of parents, undermining the rights of homeschoolers, and putting international law and international obligations in a superior position to the rights of Americans. And I’m glad to say that the arguments I raised passionately with my colleagues prevailed, and the Senate declined to ratify that treaty. And I intend to oppose any treaty that undermines American sovereignty or in any way jeopardizes the constitutional rights of Americans.

Mike: Well, Senator, to support what you have said relative to the importance of the Medellin case: at Patrick Henry College, in Constitutional Law, we study the Medellin case for a great example of how international law should be treated in the American court system. So congratulations on that victory, it’s very important to our country.

Sen. Cruz: Thank you.

Mike: Last question is concerning the concerning the Convention of States. Governor Greg Abbott, your former colleague there in Texas, has come out strongly in favor of the Convention of State application. What’s your view on the Article V Convention of States?

Sen. Cruz: Well Greg Abbott, our governor, is a dear friend and mentor. He was my boss when I was Solicitor General—he was the Attorney General. And he and I have been very, very close for over a decade—he’s a man of great principle and integrity. And I think his support for Convention of States is a manifestation of the growing movement behind that drive. And in particular there has been growing pressure from the people for Congress to pass, number one, a balanced budget amendment—to mandate that Congress stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, stop driving up the federal debt; and number two, for Congress to enact term limits—ideally term limits for both members of Congress, and for Supreme Court justices. Now I am pushing for both of those amendments—a balanced budget amendment and term limits. Right now, Congress is refusing to listen to the people—it is refusing to pass those amendments and send it to the states. The Constitution, in Article V, gives a mechanism to the people to hold Congress accountable, and namely, that is calling a Convention of the States, if Congress will not listen to the pressure to introduce constitutional amendments. I believe one of two things is going to happen: either Congress will pass a balanced budget amendment and term limits amendment, and send them to the states for ratification; or I believe the movement will keep growing and growing and we will have a Convention of the States. One way or another, we are going to see these amendments proposed, and I intend to continue to fight to make that happen.

Mike: So I take it that you support what Governor Abbott is doing in getting states right now to call the convention, to pass applications so that we can continue to put pressure on the system?

Sen. Cruz: What governor Abbott is doing, and what so many others including Mark Levin are doing across the country, is increasing the pressure on Congress to listen to the American people. And I think increasing the pressure on Congress is a very good thing, and I intend to keep pressing for this, and as president to use every power within my authority to press Congress to pass a strong balanced budget amendment and to pass term limits.

Mike: Senator, thank you so much for spending time with us today. We appreciate that, and we appreciate the willingness to share your views with homeschoolers across this country. God bless you.

Sen. Cruz: Mike, I enjoyed visiting with you, and thank you again for your tremendous leadership and fighting for our liberties each and every day.

Mike: Ted, take care. Be safe on the road, okay?

Sen. Cruz: Thank you my friend, I look forward to seeing you soon.

Ted CruzTed Cruz

In 2012, Ted Cruz was elected as the 34th U.S. Senator from Texas. A passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution, Ted won a decisive victory in both the Republican primary and the general election, despite having never before been elected to office.

Ted’s calling to public service is inspired largely by his first-hand observation of the pursuit of freedom and opportunity in America. Ted’s mother was born in Delaware to an Irish and Italian working-class family; she became the first in her family to go to college, graduated from Rice University with a degree in mathematics, and became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s.

Ted’s father was born in Cuba, fought in the revolution, and was imprisoned and tortured. He fled to Texas in 1957, penniless and not speaking a word of English. He washed dishes for 50 cents an hour, paid his way through the University of Texas, and started a small business in the oil and gas industry. Today, Ted’s father is a pastor in Dallas.

In the Senate, Ted serves on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the Committee on Armed Services; the Committee on the Judiciary; the Joint Economic Committee; and the Committee on Rules and Administration.

Before being elected, Ted received national acclaim as the Solicitor General of Texas, the State’s chief lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court. Serving under Attorney General Greg Abbott, Ted was the nation’s youngest Solicitor General, the longest serving Solicitor General in Texas, and the first Hispanic Solicitor General of Texas.

In private practice in Houston, Ted spent five years as a partner at one of the nation’s largest law firms, where he led the firm’s U.S. Supreme Court and national Appellate Litigation practice. Ted has authored more than 80 U.S. Supreme Court briefs and argued 43 oral arguments, including nine before the U.S. Supreme Court. During Ted’s service as Solicitor General, Texas achieved an unprecedented series of landmark national victories.

From 2004–2009, Ted taught U.S. Supreme Court Litigation as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law.

Prior to becoming Solicitor General, Ted served as the Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, and as Domestic Policy Advisor on the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

Ted graduated with honors from Princeton University and with high honors from Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was the first Hispanic ever to clerk for the Chief Justice of the United States.

Ted and his wife Heidi live in his hometown of Houston, Texas, with their two young daughters Caroline and Catherine.

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