J. Michael Smith, Esq.
Michael P. Farris, Esq.
Education Begins at Home Act (S. 667): Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
The Education Begins At Home Act (S. 667) establishes a program that brings the government into homes by establishing and growing programs that would bring unelected government officials into homes to inspect the family environment.
Senate Bill 667 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Despite the seemingly homeschool friendly title, the Education Begins at Home Act expands unelected government officials’ agenda into homes. While it is based on the accurate assumption that almost all children learn first and best at home, S. 667 seeks to insert the government into that process. S. 667’s stated goal is to expand Head Start’s1 Early Home Visitation program to “increase school readiness, child abuse and neglect prevention, and early identification of development and health delays, including potential mental health concerns, and for other purposes.” In practice, this will mean government officials will be in hospitals and homes implementing an agenda established by unelected federal officials whose standards may strongly offend many Americans.
Although these “home visitation” services are voluntary, once they begin, they are to occur “not less frequently than a monthly basis.” Unfortunately this wording seems to disregard the desires of the child’s parents. These entanglements are a good example of how strings are attached to so many well-intentioned government programs that end up either impotent or harmful to those involved.
In addition, this bill includes some other concerning goals. For example, government officials are invited in the home by the parents and yet go in looking for deficiencies in how the parents have chosen to raise their child. They look for signs of child abuse, “developmental delays,” and evaluate the child’s “behavioral skills.” All of this is done under the pretense of increasing the parents’ awareness of governmental services.
Education Begins At Home: A Second Mortgage
The first line of S. 667 states that its purpose is “To expand programs…” This bill takes Head Start (see footnote number 2), an already costly program, and expands it by $400 million. Furthermore, looking at the precedent that Head Start already has set, one can see that it will just continue to expand government control into families’ homes at an ever growing costs to the tax payer.
Education Begins At Home: Nanny State
Section 5 of S. 667 expands the “Head Start” Act by stating that the government will now “provide additional services to parents to support their role as parents (including training in parenting skills, basic child development, and sensitivity to cultural variations in parenting norms and attitudes toward formal supports).”2 The government will “develop and implement a systematic procedure for transitioning children and parents from an Early Head Start program into a Head Start program or another local early childhood education program.”3 This creates a government program that exists to perpetuate another government program. This will create a system that makes it easier for the government to expand its authority from 1st though 12th grade students in the public school building into the homes of people with children under the age of 3.
HSLDA is also concerned that the content of the “help” provided by these “early development programs” will be open to politicization. For example: who is going to determine what the “strategies for helping families coping with crisis”4 are most effective? Is it going to be an unelected government official who has a social agenda? There is no protection against the inherent politics involved in government work. This could be especially volatile when the government is advising a pregnant mother regarding “the relationship of health and well-being of pregnant women to prenatal and early child development.”5 In this instance, a pro-abortion unelected official could counsel a new mother to adopt his or her version of “family planning.” This “service” could very well become an arena for many significant political battles, and giving federal officials a soapbox that could be used to promote controversial “alternative” lifestyles or even abortion.
Education Begins At Home: Who Cares About the Non-Profits?
In S. 667 Section 9 another door is opened to rampant politicization: government classes on how to raise one’s children. Although this program is voluntary for the family, it is not voluntary for the hospital where the baby is born. Every hospital, military hospital, and birth center would be required to request parents to participate in a parenting class.6 This class will include “strategies for caring for [the] infant’s social, emotional, and physical needs.”7 In the political culture that pervades government offices, hospitals could be forced to provide classes that they fundamentally disagree with. Catholic hospitals, for example, could be forced to request that their patients to take classes that advocate abortion and birth control. In this legislation the hospitals are required to request that their patients take these classes. With the content of these classes being unclear, unelected government officials will be left to determine what a healthy family looks like. This is a recipe for disaster.
This legislation is a huge spending bill which creates a nanny state where the government tries to teach people how to be parents. In the process, they establish requirements that every hospital provide this training without placing limits on what is going to be taught. Controversial or politicized content may be required at some point that may interfere with, for example, a religious hospital’s beliefs. S. 667 opens a Pandora’s Box by asking the government to become the expert in parenting, while not protecting the religious organizations that might be caught in the crossfire.
1 “Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.” (US Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families, About the Office of Head Start: Mission.