Congressional Republicans file "Parents Bill of Rights" proposals
Bills increase transparency, reinforce parental rights and involvement
Proposals supporting the rights of parents when it comes to the education of their children have popped up in both the U.S. House and Senate.
On Nov. 17, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) announced the official filing of a “Parents Bill of Rights.”
Joining McCarthy on the bill are Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Rep. Julia Letlow (LA-05), Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04), and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (IN-03).
The announcement of the bill was accompanied by a statement from the members behind it:
“Earlier this month, Virginia parents delivered a political shockwave that was felt across the country. They sent a clear mandate that parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to their students’ education,” the members behind. This is the same sentiment from 8 in 10 parents polled nationally who want to have influence over what is taught in K-12 classrooms. House Republicans heard that message loud and clear.”
“Our Parents Bill of Rights will protect parental involvement by reinforcing their right to be heard, their right to see curriculums, and their right to be updated on any violent activity that happens on their children’s campus. America’s parents should never be made to feel powerless – they should be empowered and protected when it comes to having an influence in their own children’s education. We are proud that we have an opportunity to stand with families and demonstrate through our policies and actions that the Republican Party is the Party of Parents and Education.”
According to the fact sheet provided, the bill seeks to address five areas: Transparency on what kids are being taught, school budgets/spending, student privacy rights, and student safety on school campuses.
In the Senate, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley issued a press release containing details of a similar bill with a nearly identical name to that of the House, the Parents Bill of Rights Act.
“America has long recognized the right of parents to direct their children’s education but we are now seeing a concerted effort by the Left to shut parents out,” Hawley said in the release issued on Nov. 16.
“Whether it’s Joe Biden’s Justice Department attempting to classify parents as ‘domestic terrorists’ or activists funded by dark money who seek to quietly introduce critical race theory into school curricula, education has taken a back seat to radical politics in many schools and parents are taking notice. It’s time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats, and empower them to start a new era of openness in education,” Hawley said.
Hawley outlines the following key areas of the bill:
The right to know what their minor child is being taught in school, including, but not limited to, curricula, books, and other instructional materials.
The right to information on who is teaching their minor child, including guest lecturers and outside presenters.
The right to information on individuals and organizations receiving school contracts and funding.
The right to visit the school and check in on their minor child during school hours.
The right to all school records, medical or otherwise, concerning their minor child.
The right to information about the collection and transmission of their minor child’s data.
Schools and school districts shall obtain parental consent prior to collecting any biometric data or other sensitive personal information on the minor child.
The right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards.
School board meetings pertaining to curricula, safety, and other student issues shall be held in public and allow for public comments.
The right to know about situations affecting their minor child’s safety in school.
Parents shall be notified in a timely manner of all reported incidents pertaining to student safety, including all crimes or misdemeanors committed by teachers or other school employees.
Hawley has put some teeth in his bill, specifically targeting funding of schools who don’t comply.
“Parents will be empowered to sue schools that do not protect these rights for injunctive relief,” Hawley’s summary reads. “A pattern of such violations in a particular jurisdiction will trigger major reductions in federal education funding.”
The Senate version of the bill reinforces a parents’ right to visit their child in school during the school day, something which has become an increasing issue since the pandemic.
Hawley’s bill would also prohibit public schools from requiring parents to sign nondisclosure agreements to see what materials are being used in their child’s classroom or school.
Additionally, Hawley’s bill tackles the “opt-out” tactics of school districts for certain activities. His bill would require districts to allow students to participate in things like assemblies, field trips, and other activities only if parents opt-in. Hawley’s bill does not appear to cover non-academic and often privacy-invading surveys given to students during school hours.
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