State Journal: Home-school candidate; Schools under siege
A longtime national advocate for home schooling is trying to move from being a self-described government "outsider'' to an elected insider.
Michael P. Farris, 41, the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, will vie this summer for the Virginia Republican Party's nomination for lieutenant governor. If successful, he will meet the Democratic incumbent in the Nov. 2 general election.
Mr. Farris is a lawyer who has spent a decade fighting for the right of parents to teach their children at home. In 1991, for instance, his legal-defense group won a South Carolina Supreme Court case challenging a state requirement that parents pass a test before teaching their children at home.
Mr. Farris anticipates beating his sole opponent for the GŸOŸPŸ nod and thinks he has a "decent chance'' against the incumbent, Lieut. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Mr. Farris, who home schools the five of his eight children who are of school age, said his top campaign issue will be the state budget. But he also has some ambitious plans for making "good changes in public education.''
He said he would "eliminate the power of the state and federal departments of education'' and instead have policy made exclusively by parents, teachers, principals, and school boards.
The Virginia education department, he said, "should be cut back basically to an auditing function,'' in addition to having oversight of licensing and teacher certification.
The education author Jonathan Kozol, whose book Savage Inequalities blasts school-finance disparities, recently unleashed a harsh attack on the Governor of Rhode Island.
Gov. Bruce Sundlun is "one of the most regressive governors in the country,'' Mr. Kozol told an audience at Roger Williams University last month.
Mr. Kozol argued that the Governor's proposal to divert more state aid from wealthy to poorer school districts will pit districts against each other.
"Schools are under siege'' in Rhode Island, Mr. Kozol said.
Governor Sundlun has "the sensitivity of [former U.S. Secretary of Education] William Bennett and the forward thinking of Dan Quayle,'' the author added. "I can't believe he's a Democrat.''
Brian Gallogly, the Governor's policy director, responded that Mr. Sundlun has "level funded'' education at a time when other states are making cuts.
"There's no easy way to fund at the level Mr. Kozol is talking about,'' he added.--M.L. & J.R.