The National Association of Christian Educators (NACE) was founded in 1983 as a 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE) is a division of NACE. The group claims 1,668 chapters, 878 church-based Public School Awareness Committees, and about 250,000 members. NACE/CEE has chapters in almost every state, with California boasting the most chapters.
The annual budget is $610,000 (a $90,000 decrease from last year). Most of the group's income comes from individual donors; however, Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, CA, contributes about $50,000 annually. In the past, NACE/CEE has received financial support from the Coors beer family through the Coors Foundation.
Dr. Robert L. Simonds, 70, is the founder and president. A former fundamentalist minister, Simonds taught math at a community college for almost 20 years. His use of the title "Dr." represents a Bible-school degree in theology. Simonds was a member of President Reagan's Taskforce to Implement the National Commission on Excellence in Education Report, 'A Nation at Risk." His wife, Jacki, and daughter, Kathi Hudson, also work for NACE/CEE.
The board of directors includes Bob Simonds, president, Jacqueline Simonds, secretary/treasurer, and Russell Wilson, Donna Ross, and Dan Collins, all of Orange County, California.
Dr. Arnold Burron of the University of Northern Colorado is a close associate. Burron serves as director of a new CEE entity called the National Center for Reconcilation and Reform, the purpose of which is "to assure our CEE entry into all school districts."
Simonds, and members of the NACE/CEE, believe they are following "the Lord's plans to bring public education back under the control of the Christian community." While they clearly want to control the public schools, their agenda goes even further.
Simonds was a member of the National Coordinating Council (NCC), the political arm of the Coalition on Revival, and chaired its education committee. In 1990, at the time of Simonds' involvement, the NCC published its 20-year plan to Christianize America. One of the written goals was to "work towards replacing all local public schools with private schools by 2000 A.D." Today, Simonds says that he does not want to abolish public schools, but to reform them.
The NACE/CEE advocates home schooling as an alternative to public schools, as well as government vouchers to subsidize tuition at private Christian schools.
The main priority is to elect conservative Christians to school boards. Until recently, disruption of the public schools by attacking curricula and textbooks has been a high priority. CEE is currently experimenting with a new approach.
The National Center for Reconciliation and Reform is an outward attempt by NACE/CEE to "move parents from warfare to equal partners." Simonds writes, "Peace is always preferable to war, if sincere cooperation is enjoined. However, peace with compromise of our ethics, beliefs, or agendas is not worthwhile. We will never agree to any common ground like that."
While Simonds has adopted a new approach toward school officials, his shift seems disingenuous. In a recent confidential letter to NACE/CEE's national board members, Simonds clearly stated his position: "Should this effort fail, we [Christians] have lost nothing. We can and WILL continue to take back control of our local school boards and eventually the entire system. We will fight to the end to stop any atheism, values clarification psychology, hypnotism, necromancy, immorality, homosexuality, or denial of students' or parents' free speech and free exercise of our faith in our schools.
"When we get our Christian agenda operating inside the schools, we can control all those things much easier, because our agenda leaves NO time for those kind of things.
"I believe they are realizing they really have little or NO choice but to cooperate. So far, the Lord's leading has been working beautifully."
NACE/CEE reaches into communities through its numerous chapters and Public School Awareness (PSA) groups. PSAs are established in fundamentalist and Pentecostal churches, while chapters are stand-alone, and affiliated with the national group. Some chapters do not carry the CEE name and thus are not so easily identified. In addition, CEE estimates that 200 other non-affiliated organizations use their material.
The national office publishes numerous concocted and inflammatory materials alerting Christian parents about the latest Satanic and humanistic plots to subvert their children. Local chapters and PSAs use this material to engage school boards and other parents.
Since 1989, the NACE/CEE claims it has helped elect over 12,625 conservative Christians to school boards. In 1989, its first year of trying to elect school board members, it elected 250; in 1990, 454; in 1991, 1,157; in 1992, 3,611; in 1993, 7,153.
In 1994, Simonds told The Freedom Writer, "We lost two or three big ones, but early indications are we had our biggest landslide ever." Simonds claims that there are now 2,050 schools with a conservative Christian majority. He refuses to name them, saying, "We are protecting all our chapters' identity and successes from media information, to prevent undue attack and persecution."
The Vista, CA school board was one of CEE's 1994 losses. In 1992, with assistance from the CEE, the Christian Right took over the Vista School Board in San Diego County. Following their victory, board meetings began with prayer, and the board introduced the teaching of Biblical creationism in the district's schools.
NACE/CEE has been effective in banning a wide range of books from schools, including Little Red Riding Hood, and the Judy Blume novel Deenie. NACE/CEE opposes the use of the Impressions reading series, and outcome-based education. Their opposition has wreaked havoc in hundreds of schools. NACE/CEE's credibility is often undermined by crackpot theories and ridiculous hyperbole. Simonds once described his opponents as originating "from the very headquarters of evil."
After several years of rapid growth, NACE/CEE is in a period of decline. This seems largely due to member disatisfaction over Simonds' apparent willingness to "bury the hatchet" with some of his detractors. He has been working closely with Dr. Bill Spady, the "father of outcome-based education" — opposition to which has been the rallying cry for many Religious Right groups.
However, CEE will continue to elect conservative Christians to school boards. Simonds believes that its phenomenal success in school board races in the past three years is due to the fact that its candidates haven't pushed "Christian causes." Advocating a Christian/moral agenda invites immediate opposition in local school board races. So, instead, Simonds suggests that Christian candidates "be careful in how you state your position."
Simonds urges his members to "Go all out on all elections. Nothing else will do. Engage all the churches — inform them — register them — establish special prayer support groups. You WILL win!"
In its Parent Action Guide, the NACE/CEE says that "only about 5-10% of your community votes for school board members. That means that a 1-3% swing in the vote will have major impact. Generally, 3% represents only a few churches." Kathi Hudson emphasizes persistence in trying to take over a school board, saying that it usually "takes a couple of years to control a school board."
Like most organizations in the Christian Right, the NACE/CEE employs stealth tactics and subterfuge to further its agenda. The name Citizens for Excellence in Education was adopted for local use because it sounds like "a `friendly' name to the school board."
Regarding the separation between church and state, the NACE/CEE applies whatever logic fits the occasion. In How to Elect Christians to Public Office, Simonds says, "The separation between church and state is another 'myth' the ACLU, NEA, and NOW have sold the public." However, the same book says, "Any persuasion of humanism that promotes a religious or irreligious belief is in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state."
Bob Simonds sees any criticism of the Religious Right's agenda as "specifically meant to PERSECUTE Christians" (emphasis his). He adds, "It now appears that Christians in America are beginning to share the same treatment Jews received in Nazi Germany."
NACE/CEE's newsletter, Education Newsline, is published monthly but may be cut back to a quarterly publication. Simonds also issues frequent "President's Reports." Simonds' book, How to Elect Christians to Public Office, is available for $3.00 plus $0.75 postage. Chapters use How to Help Your School Be a Winner, the CEE chapter manual. A complete list of publications is sent to anyone on the mailing list.
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