Kay Will Light Up Your Switchboard

Published April 1, 1999

Few topics hit home more than education–ask any parent. If you have a radio program and want to talk about education in a way your listeners have never heard before–and light up your switchboard with their calls as a result–invite school voucher advocate Kay O’Connor to be your guest.

Raised on a homestead in Alaska, this great-grandmother is a nationally recognized advocate of school choice. As a representative in the Kansas House, Kay has introduced legislation that would replace bureaucratic and union control of education with parental control.

Although most people want more choice in the education of their children, some oppose school choice violently. Kay’s automobile has been vandalized on numerous occasions. She gets crank calls at her home. Newspapers smear her name. Why? Because she wants to break the stranglehold the teacher unions have on public education.

Kay is executive director of a Parents in Control (PIC), a nationwide organization whose mission is to promote legislation that will increase parents’ control over educational decisions for their children. This includes anything from open enrollment to charter schools, tuition tax credits, and vouchers. PIC already boasts a mailing list of over 13,000 families and recently received funding from the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.

Over the past six years, Kay has talked with literally thousands of people about school choice. She has traveled to every one of the 105 counties on Kansas–and to many other states–to hear what role parents want to play in the education of their children. They want a much bigger say than they have now.

A committed and legitimate spokeswoman for education reform, Kay is a frequent guest on radio programs, where she has been heard in St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Topeka. She also has been the subject of nationally syndicated radio programs, such as Family News in Focus and Agri-Talk. National print media, including Investors Business Daily and the Washington Times, also have made her the subject of articles discussing school reform.

South Dakota House Protects Paychecks

On February 22, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill to provide paycheck protection for members of labor unions and employee organizations. Sponsored by Representative Mark Young, HB 1293 was approved by a vote of 36 to 32 and sent to the Senate, where observers expect a pitched battle. Republican Governor William Janklow already has indicated his support for the bill.

The bill is specifically designed to protect an employee’s paycheck by requiring prior written authorization before fees are withheld from it for political activity. Under the bill’s provisions, before collecting fees or payments from an individual for political activities, such as union PACs, an employee or labor organization must first receive a separate, prior written authorization from that person for the political activity in question. The authorization would remain in effect until revoked, and it could be revoked at any time upon written notice.

Political activity includes making contributions to political parties, candidates, or political action committees, or participating or intervening in any political campaign or political party.

According to Ron Nehring of Americans for Tax Reform, union officials desperate to kill paycheck protection in South Dakota thought they had won their battle to continue unauthorized PAC deductions when a Senate committee in February buried a similar measure just before the deadline for introduction in the House. However, Representative Young quickly introduced his own bill before the deadline, led a charge on the House floor to force the Commerce committee to report the bill to the floor, won its passage, and defeated a motion to reconsider.

Historic 1925 Ruling Packaged for Schools

“The child is not the mere creature of the state . . .”

This quotation, which appears on the letterhead of Parents in Control, is taken from the historic 1925 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, where the court unequivocally affirmed the right of parents to choose a non-government school for the education of their child. Although the significance of the Pierce case is well known to school choice advocates, it’s virtually unknown to most Catholic school students.

That situation will soon be remedied with a high school curriculum unit on the lawsuit, developed with the aid of a $25,000 grant from Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic-oriented publications firm in Huntington, Indiana.

Maria Mazzenga, a graduate student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC prepared the instructional packet using original materials unearthed by university archivist Timothy J. Meagher. The packet–containing a summary of the case, a timeline, and biographies of the key protagonists–is designed “to not just give students the answers, but to have them work with real stuff, analyze it, and prove things themselves,” Meagher told Education Week.

The Pierce case grew out of the approval by Oregon voters of a 1922 initiative that required all children between the ages of 8 and 16 to attend public schools. It was feared that the law, strongly supported by members of the Ku Klux Klan, would destroy parochial and non-public schools. It was the culmination of a crusade against Catholic schools that had started almost 70 years earlier with the Know-Nothings in Massachusetts and had led to the infamous Blaine Amendments in many state constitutions barring state aid to religious schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Oregon law was unwarranted because the non-public schools were engaged “in a kind of undertaking not inherently harmful but long regarded as useful and meritorious.” Affirming the rights of parents, the court declared:

“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”
Education Week, February 17, 1999
Lloyd P. Jorgenson, The State and the Non-Public School, 1825-1925
(Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1987).

For more information …

The full text of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1925 decision in Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary is available on the Internet at http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/cases/name.htm#Case_Name_P_Q.