In 2012 many Christian colleges saw ObamaCare challenge their
religious freedoms, schools made significant gains, student
religious freedoms were increasingly being attacked, and at the end
of the year the massacre of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary
cast a pall over the nation at year's end.
School challenges to healthcare mandate
Dozens of Christian and Catholic universities filed lawsuits
against the Department of Health and Human Services during 2012.
They were seeking revocation of the administration's mandate to
offer sterilization and contraceptives, which violate their moral
and religious conviction.
There was an October breakthrough when the Supreme Court ordered
a federal appeals court to reconsider Liberty University's
"This, for example, is a challenge against the employer mandate
in general, across the board," explained
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel. "And if we win that, that guts
ObamaCare because [it] cannot operate if the employer mandate is
not in effect. It literally guts ObamaCare across the board."
a federal appeals court sided with Wheaton College and Belmont
Abbey College saying it would hold the Obama administration to
the promise of never implementing the current birth-control
mandate. The court ordered a new rule to be implemented by next
In addition to infringing on religious liberties, Elizabeth
Stelle of the Commonwealth Foundation said ObamaCare could also
threaten the quality of education.
"You may have a much more limited pool now of folks you can
bring in and teach because of these restrictions," she stated. "So
I definitely think it could especially hinder the quality of
education that you get from people who have real-world
Popularity of school-choice programs
School-choice programs continued to show increasing popularity
through the year. The programs include private schools, charter
schools, voucher programs, scholarship tax credit opportunities,
and online learning. A study released in September revealed that
when the public was asked if it would support or oppose allowing
students to attend private schools with tuition paid in part by the
government, supporters outnumbered those opposed by 20 percent.
Not unexpectedly, such programs are being opposed in several
states by teachers unions and state boards of education.
Jeff Reed is with the Friedman Foundation for School
"This is something that we see in a number of states when
school-choice options are proposed -- that typically, defenders of
the status quo, [defenders] of the monopolistic public education
system, try to challenge it," Reed noted. "That's been the case in
Indiana. It's been the case down in Louisiana."
There are currently 32 publicly-funded private school-choice
programs in 16 states -- and the number is expected to grow during
the current school year.
Failing students, failing model
After decades of government intrusion into education, and
hundreds of billions of dollars pumped into failed federal
programs, a recent survey showed SAT reading scores were the worst
in 40 years. Though assessments show some improvements in
fourth-grade achievement, much of those gains were lost by the time
those students reached the eighth grade. Lindsey Burke
of The Heritage Foundation said U.S. students still lag behind
their global counterparts.
"What is not helping is continuing to increase federal control
and spending over education," she told OneNewsNow. "That's been the
way in which the U.S. education system has operated for the past
half century now. We continue to throw more federal dollars at more
federal programs in hopes that we will be able to see improvements
in American education. That's been a failing model for half a
Attacks on religious freedom
Religious freedoms at public schools were still under attack
from atheist and anti-religious groups in 2012. In Texas, there was
a failed attempt to prevent cheerleaders from displaying religious
messages on banners. In Oklahoma, efforts were made to squelch an
after-school Kids for Christ program. In Montana, students singing
sacred Christmas carols were said to be bullying others.
And in North Carolina, a first-grader was forced to remove a
sentence from her poem which mentioned how her grandfathers prayed
to God when they were soldiers. The poem was to honor them on
Matt Sharp with Alliance Defending Freedom: "To be told that
because she made a reference to the fact that her grandfathers
prayed while they were serving in these difficult battles and
whatnot, and then to be told That's offensive; that can't be
included if you want to be able to read it out loud to the rest of
the members that would be attending the celebration -- I think
would be very traumatic for this young girl."
Evil in Newtown, CT
Then the year in education ended in the worst possible way as 20
school children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in
Newtown, Connecticut. On that day, Peter
Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut says it was
impossible to fully comprehend the massacre.
"The community is in shock, the entire state of Connecticut is
in shock, and we're all just trying to recover some sense of
understanding about what happened today. And there's just a great
deal of mourning."
The debate over gun control, school safety, blame, and
prevention is expected to continue for months to come.