By Brian Ehlers
In 2020, a year many of us would like to keep in the rearview mirror, my wife, Darcy, and I experienced a revelation that compelled us to make some life-changing decisions. As the 2020-2021 school year was about to begin, we along with many parents began a routine of listening in on school board meetings. I must confess that during all our twin daughters’ elementary years up until 2020, we had never attended or listened in on a single school board meeting. We hadn’t even voted in a school board election. We just assumed all was well. Our experience with teachers and administrators had been positive, so we assumed everything must be fine.
But now with Covid, the school board was making decisions about whether our kids were going to attend school daily, on a hybrid (day-on, day-off) schedule, or by staying home via a virtual school, so we were tuned in. Wow! Were we in for a rude awakening! We could not believe the politics involved at the local school board level. We had mistakenly believed we were sending our most precious blessings to school for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, we encountered an agenda that went way beyond that.
First, we discovered our school board was antagonistic toward our state government, obviously due to political differences on how to manage the pandemic. Even more disturbing was the night the school board passed a resolution that not only supported a politically charged group, but also sanctioned student protests during school hours. What an eye opener! Our community is diverse, but the school board’s decisions did not reflect that diversity.
Sadly, many of us Christians have been AWOL (absent without leave) when it comes to our local school boards. We have given leadership of our schools over to those who ascribe to an ungodly worldview. As I have talked to others, I have realized that that reality is not unique to our school district. Many school boards are instituting policies that are indoctrinating children with concepts contrary to Christian beliefs.
Due to our concerns, Darcy and I started researching and praying about our girls’ education. With them transitioning to middle school in 2022, we believed it was time to reassess. In early 2022, when the local school board voted to allow biological boys in biological girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms and vice-versa, it sealed my resolve to pray through to the right option for our girls. It has been a bit complicated because most private schools don’t have the resources to meet the specific needs of our children.
After experiencing many closed doors, we have been able to enroll them in a Christian school an hour away from Des Moines, and we are excited once again about their education. Our house is now on the market, and we are planning a move closer to the school and trusting God for the details. In light of our experience, I offer the following three encouragements for Christians regarding the state of public schools:
- Get involved by being informed. Regardless of your stage in life and whether you have children in public schools or not, please stay informed regarding your local school district. Follow news about the district. Go to the school district website and read minutes from board meetings on topics that matter. Listen in on school board meetings; they are often streamed. Our next generation is at stake. You may be like I was, ignorant of what is happening in the school districts, but Christians can’t afford to be asleep at the switch anymore.
- Act. With knowledge comes the responsibility to act on that knowledge. We can learn about school board candidates and support those whose perspective includes a Christian worldview. Support can include volunteering for the candidate, making contributions, and displaying yard signs. Be open to God’s call to become a school board candidate. Of course, voting in the school board election and encouraging others to vote is one of the most important things we can do. Show support for the Christian worldview by attending school board meetings and commenting on topics critical to the well-being of our next generation. Humanistic thought will prevail if God’s representatives stay silent. Whether you have children or not, you live in the district, pay school district taxes, and have opportunity to share your voice.
- Pray about your options. Thank God we have different options for schooling our children. Parents need to pray about what option is best for their children. No family situation is the same, so we need to allow God to direct us in what He would have us to do. Then we need to remember other families are praying through their options. Don’t shame others for a choice they have prayed through. God’s choice for my family may not be the same as God’s choice for yours. Here are a few schooling options:
- Homeschools. Homeschooling has come a long way. No longer is a child relegated to sitting alone in front of a computer. Many communities offer homeschooling co-ops and other ways for children to interact with other students. If your community doesn’t have one, start one!
- Hybrid homeschools. Hybrid homeschools are supported by public or private schools. Students have the option of attending some classes in traditional brick-and-mortar schools and some at home. Many parents like this option for enabling their students to take subjects like band or drama. Some hybrid options include a private school supplementing all subjects two or three days a week.
- Private schools. Private schools are usually privately owned and funded without the assistance of local, state, or federal governments.
- Public schools. Public schools are administered and funded by the state or national government.
- Charter schools. A charter school is a tuition-free school of choice that is publicly funded but independently run. In exchange for exemptions from many of the state laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools, charters are bound to the terms of a contract, or “charter,” that lays out a school’s missions, academic goals, fiscal guidelines, and accountability requirements. On the other side of a charter contract is an authorizer – such as a state agency university or school district – that has the power to shut down a school that does not meet the terms of their contracts.
Remind yourself: God has this! He is faithful. It’s amazing that God loves our children even more than we do. Whether you are a mom giving her all with homeschooling, a family making sacrifices to afford private school, or a single parent who feels public school is his or her only option, remember that God is your children’s protector, provider, and ever-present help. He will give you the wisdom that you need, the guidance you seek, and the love that is required to support your children. He will not forsake them. Trust in Him and He will faithfully help you navigate the current education landscape.
About the Author
Brian Ehlers and his wife, Darcy, have been married for 23 years. They have twelve-year-old twin daughters, Hannah and Abigail. Brian worked in the mutual fund industry until God called him to vocational ministry serving as an executive assistant at Open Bible East, then as a lead pastor of a local church, then as an assistant and church planting director in the East Region. He is now the secretary/treasurer of Open Bible Churches.