Wednesday, February 8, 2023

State Rep’s Hostility (and Profanity) Toward Private and Religious Schools is Disqualifying

“Fuck private and religious schools.”

Those are the words that New Hampshire state representative Tamara Meyer probably wishes she could take back. Meyer, who sits on the education committee, was venting on her Facebook page when she drafted the post that has since been taken down. Her rant raises major questions not only about the biases she brings with her to the house education committee but also about the lack of respect she clearly has for the people of New Hampshire who send their children to private and religious schools. 

She is hostile toward the educational choices they’ve made for their children. 

This is the now deleted—or at least hidden—Facebook post.

Meyer is correct that private schools—whether religious or independent—are not subject to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). That fact does not mean that only public schools serve students with disabilities — many private schools offer special services and some even specialize in a particular area of need like autism or dyslexia. But it is true that the right to a “free and appropriate education” or FAPE does not exist in private schools, largely because they aren’t free but also because they have more flexibility around which needs they can and can’t meet. 

If Representative Meyer has picked up a newspaper or watched the news in the last decade, she is aware that public schools fall down on the job of providing special education services all the time. Lawsuits over noncompliance with special education law and student IEPS (Individualized Education Plans) are commonplace, including in New Hampshire. Meyer’s frustration in her role as a mother is understandable, but let’s not pretend that public schools are some kind of special education panacea where discrimination is non-existent. It simply isn’t the case. 

Meyer may be correct that the private schools her daughter’s friends are applying to would not be able to provide the services her daughter needs. Or she may not be. But putting her personal situation aside, her willingness to publicly vilify all religious and private schools disqualifies her from sitting on the education committee. It reveals that she lacks any meaningful understanding of what drives parents to choose schools and that she has no tolerance for religion as the reason. 

Representative Meyer claims that her local public high school “kicks butt.” And I hope it does. But a school that “kicks butt” for one student doesn’t necessarily do the same for all students (or their parents.) School pride is important and Tamara Meyer at least appears to have it in spades when it comes to her local high school—but that pride crosses a line when an elected official on the education committee demeans the different educational choices of her constituents in a profanity-laden rant on social media.  

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.


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