By Steve Hunley

For years there has been a tug and pull about out of school time programs and whether or not it benefits the students. It will likely not surprise you some of those most solidly opposed to out of school time programs are some folks and the public school  establishment. That debate has come out into the open here locally due to a Bible time release pilot program proposed at Sterchi Elementary School. To his credit, the school superintendent supports the pilot program. Participation isn’t mandatory and requires parental permission.

Studies have proven what seems to me only natural; that being to develop emotional and social skills, programs have to have some element aiming toward that goal. Nobody seems to chant the mantra of “diversity” and “tolerance” more than the public educational establishment. The entire theory behind the Restorative Practices Program is some youngsters are not really responsible for their own bad behavior and therefore shouldn’t be punished for it. Instead, they should remain in the same classrooms with those they have bullied or beat up, for they are the true victims and should be treated as such. We are told it will take more money – – – lots more money – – – to provide the resources these unfortunate victims of society need to heal: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, additional education bureaucrats, etc. You’ll never see anybody affiliated with the public school establishment who is against stuffing the  establishment with more money.

That same public school establishment always seems to be against any kind of choice for the parents and if truth be told, for the students. They are hysterically and adamantly against any kind of school choice or vouchers. They are against anything which threatens the monopoly of the public school system. Likewise, the some of the proponents of the established order are now flooding the email boxes of Knox County Board of Education members to protest the proposed Bible time release program at Sterchi Elementary School.

Virtually all of them throw up the old bugaboo of separation of church and state, yet I daresay not one of them has written to complain to UT President Randy Boyd about the idea the university should have an entire Department of Religious Studies. Last time I checked, the University of Tennessee is a state-owned and run school, paid for by the taxpayers of the State of Tennessee.

Far too many decisions have been taken out of the hands of parents. Nor do I think the public school establishment has the right to interfere with what extracurricular programs parents choose for their children. When the State can decide instead of a responsible parent, this has ceased to be the United States of America.

I will be the first to agree there are far too many irresponsible parents who either don’t care or pay no attention to their children’s education and educational opportunities. There are far too many parents who have given over responsibility for their children to their own parents. All of us know friends or have family members who are raising their grandchildren because their own children are in the throes of drug addiction or just plain unfit parents. Yet we lament the fact there is not more parental involvement in our schools. Whether or not the public school establishment actually means it when it says there should be more parental involvement is debatable. It very well may be like the use of the words “tolerance” and “diversity.” There’s certainly been very little tolerance by some of an optional program that requires parental permission.

You see, the public school establishment usually screams, cries, and wrings its collective hands when something comes along that might actually reinforce good behavior and values. It’s worse still if it doesn’t cost any money or create a slew of new jobs to perpetuate and expand the education establishment.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see the board of education cave under pressure from the establishment. Too many of the board members have forgotten they represent the parents, students and the taxpayers, instead of the school system.