By Jim Waters Bluegrass Beacon

Have you heard the one about Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School dumping the Pledge of Allegiance during its morning gathering of all students?

Apparently principal Lara Zelinksi thinks reciting the pledge to a flag that more than 1.2 million fellow Americans gave the last full measure of their devotion to defend is incompatible with her school being "a fully inclusive and connected community."

Zelinski instead proposed a "Wolf Pack Chant" -- apparently named after the school's mascot -- that would "focus on students' civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society."

Fortunately, most parents and Georgia policymakers didn't buy into this nonsense that pledging allegiance to the flag and all it represents to Americans somehow is incompatible with students' civic responsibilities.

Which matters greatly in this case because the students who attend this charter school aren't assigned there by overpaid bureaucrats in the Fulton County Schools' district offices.

Rather, charter schools in Atlanta and nationwide exist only at the pleasure of the parents who choose to enroll their children in them -- or not.

So, it's not surprising that this imprudent principal's anxiety issues over the pledge got walked back, and quickly.

There's a message here for Kentucky.

School-choice opponents in the Bluegrass State offer misleading claims that the voices of the parents of charter-school students get drowned simply because each of these schools has their own board.

However, what happened in Atlanta reminds us that when parents have the option of removing their children and the dollars that follow them to public charter schools -- their voice tends to get heard, and more promptly and respectfully than if their children were in, say, the traditional Bedford Area School District in southcentral Pennsylvania, which announced earlier this year students would not have to stand for the pledge.

Officials in that school district claim requiring students to respect Old Glory clashes with the First Amendment.

I wonder what the creators of that amendment, who signed the Constitution of which it's a part in that very state, would think about such reasoning.

Still, I get it.

Some parents -- unbelievably so -- want their kids to be allowed to disrespect the flag, pledge and republic for which they stand.

The difference is, if that happens in the Atlanta charter school, parents who don't want their children in such an atmosphere of disrespect can choose to enroll them elsewhere where values of freedom and principles of respect are shared, taught and practiced.

But if the system decides where a child attends school -- regardless of the parents' wishes -- and those parents don't have the option of charter schools, access to scholarships or the means to write a big tuition check for a private education, their children remain stuck in an environment at odds with their family's values.

Recently, Kentuckians were treated to the scene of a socialist flag flying in the midst of a mob led by teachers'-union bosses who shut down schools across the state to conduct protests at the Capitol during this year's legislative session.

It would not be surprising for some from that crowd to endorse disrespect for the red, white and blue, though most Kentuckians wouldn't agree.

While our constitutional values include protecting their right to dissent, there also must be publicly funded choices for others who want a different educational environment for their children.

Kentucky, unlike most states, doesn't offer such alternatives right now.

Instead, students are assigned schools based on their zip code, socioeconomic status or the whims of a bureaucrat who knows nothing about how they learn or what they need.

These decisions often harm these children's future chances of success, and certainly don't offer educational "liberty and justice" for all!

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky's free-market think tank. Read previous columns at He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.