I don’t know what the Board of Education of Willard City Schools will decide pertaining to a “released time” proposal put forward by the Willard Ministerial Association, but I certainly favor the idea. The Norwalk Reflector recently published an article outlining the proposal.
Under the proposal, students at Willard’s Central Elementary School would be allowed to cross the street to Grace United Methodist Church during their recess period after lunch and receive religious instruction. The volunteers that would act on the WMA’s behalf in escorting the school children across the street and providing the religious instruction would be subject to background checks.
The separation of church and state would be maintained, as the religious instruction would not request any resources whatsoever from the public schools. The only request is that students be permitted, if they and their parents desire, to be excused for recess for a few minutes of Bible study off school grounds, yet adjacent to school grounds.
But even if the Willard School Board decides against “released time,” I would encourage the Willard Ministerial Association to make weekday religious instruction more accessible to schoolkids, perhaps as a before-school activity, and/or as an after-school activity, or perhaps on a “released time” basis to junior high and high school students at locations adjacent to those schools.
Of course, if released time is permitted for those of Central Elementary’s students who want to spend recess on Bible study, released time should also be granted to students who wish to devote their recess to alternative pursuits. In this sense, even parents who wish their children’s education would steer clear of all religious instruction can still benefit from approval of WMA’s proposal, as they can design programs according to their own preferences to be utilized during “released time.” All of this is encapsulated within the concept of “School Enterprise Zones” that I’ve written about here at Buckeye RINO and also here, here, and here at Word of Mouth.
If these proposals are followed, any popular demand for charter schools will be diminished, as parents are able to incorporate public school instruction into a larger educational design for their children. It is the role of the public schools to be a tool in the hands of parents so that the parents can fulfill their responsibilities to educate their children. The public schools should not usurp those parental responsibilities for education. The public schools had better not show themselves to be inflexible and unwieldy tools, as I foresee continued vigorous debate over the future of education in Ohio, and schools had better ally themselves with parents in that debate than make enemies of them.