On March 1, House Republicans introduced the Parents Bill of Rights Act to ensure the rights of parents are honored and protected in public schools. The federal legislation, authored by Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA), comes as some states undertake similar efforts to protect parental rights and require curriculum transparency by public schools.
Amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), the Parents Bill of Rights Act states that parents have the right to know what occurs at their child’s school. Furthermore, it outlines that parents have the authority to make decisions about their child’s education.
The bill establishes five foundational parental rights in the context of their child’s school. They include the right to know what is being taught, to be heard, to see the school budget and spending, to protect their child’s privacy, and to be updated on any violent activity at schools.
Additionally, the bill states that parents have a right to a list of all books and reading materials, the right to review the curriculum, the right to meet with their child’s teachers not less than twice per year, and the right to address the school board.
In introducing the bill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy provided context:
The pandemic was so very hard for our entire nation. One thing that came out of it was we started seeing what was being taught in our schools. We started seeing what they were reading. That’s something we should have every day, but then we had to fight to find it out. Then when we fought to make our voice, we were attacked. No longer will that take place.Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House
McCarthy also explained:
So many times across this nation, we found that parents were attacked, called terrorists if they simply wanted to go to the school board meeting to be heard about what’s going on. The right to see the school budgets and how they spend their money, the right to protect your child’s privacy, and the right to be updated on any violent activity at the school. We think these are pretty basic things that everybody and every parent should have a right to.Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House
What makes the legislation necessary is the extreme lengths public schools have gone to advance a far-left political agenda in K-12 classrooms. Aware that parents don’t want their children exposed to radical teachings, policies, and practices, schools have worked in secret from parents. Not stopping at withholding information from parents, public schools often now seek to drive a wedge between students and parents by striving to convince students they know better than their parents. Some go as far as to portray parents as the enemy, while they, the teachers, assure students that they are the ones looking after the students’ best interests.
The contrast with private schools (particularly those that are religiously-affiliated) is stark. Private schools hold to two foundational principles. First, parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. Second, the role of the school is to partner with, rather than oppose, parents. Private schools view parents as the customer whose authority is paramount. As a result, communication tends to be proactive, and the curriculum is transparent. In short, parental involvement is not only welcomed but encouraged.
The current legislative efforts to protect parental rights in public schools are of critical importance. Children belong to parents — not school personnel — and must be regarded accordingly. Yet, as much as these legislative efforts matter, school personnel with agendas at odds with parents will still seek to prevail through non-formal avenues, such as conversations with students, leveraging their rapport.
So, while the legislation can make a significant positive impact, it’s no silver bullet. It’s not foolproof. And, public schools rightfully have lost the trust of parents. Therefore, as school choice makes unprecedented headway, more parents will be empowered to pull their children from these government-run and union-controlled anti-parent public schools. Families who have left aren’t coming back. They have seen where education and customer service are better, and the teachings align with their family values. Yet, most importantly, parents aren’t the adversary but are treated as the greatest advocate for their child and the school’s best partner in the educational endeavor.