(The Center Square) — House Republicans passed the “Parents Bill of Rights” Friday, the latest step in the party’s push on education and controversial classroom topics like critical race theory and LGBT issues.
Republicans narrowly passed the measure 213-208. The bill would require schools to post curriculum publicly for parents to see. Schools would also be required to give parents the reading lists that students receive as well as documentation of the books in the school library.
The legislation would bolster parents’ right to speak at school board meetings and to meet with teachers.
The bill would also require schools to get permission from parents before using different pronouns for middle and elementary school students or letting children use the locker room or bathroom of a gender different from the one with which they were born.
“As a mom of two, I know how important it is that parents and schools work together to create a positive environment for learning and growth,” U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., wrote on Twitter. “This bill empowers parents and allows them to have a greater say in their children’s education.”
The battle over classroom content reached a fever pitch in recent years as a steady stream of battles over gender, critical race theory and sexually explicit content in grade schools have gone viral. Parents protesting and speaking out at school boards have been silenced and even arrested, further fueling the controversy and sparking other parents to speak out.
The debate over parents’ involvement in their kids’ education became a defining issue in the last Virginia gubernatorial election.
Analysts say Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lost in large part because of his remarks, which challenger and current Gov. Glenn Youngkin was able to weaponize. McAuliffe infamously said during a gubernatorial debate: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has picked up the mantle of parents rights, pushing legislation in Florida that bans teachers from pushing gender and sexuality conversations on kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Amidst the education battles, polling showed Democrats begin to lose voters’ trust as an authority on the issue. Polling consistently shows that both parties tend to dominate their respective issues in voters’ minds. For example, Democrats are more trusted on health care and climate while Republicans are more trusted on the economy.
This congressional measure now faces that tense environment and a very difficult, and likely impossible, road in the Senate, especially given the legislation’s disapproval from Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Democratic critics blasted the measure passed Friday, saying it politicizes the classroom.
“Our children need urgent and aggressive educational solutions,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. said in a floor speech attacking the measure. “When we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is, and that is freedom over fascism.”
Others heralded the bill backing up parents’ rights, arguing it’s protecting kids since classrooms have already been politicized.
“Parents have a fundamental, constitutionally protected right to direct the upbringing of their children,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Sharp said. “With the adoption of the Foxx amendment, the House affirmed that parental rights are entitled to protection from government interference just like every other fundamental right.”