I’m a mom of 3 school-aged children and we need to protect parents’ rights inside the classroom
Let me cut to the chase: Now more than ever we need to protect parents’ voices inside the classroom.
I know I join parents across southern Indiana, and across our country, in feeling increasingly worried as soon as we send our children off to school.
It wasn’t always like this. However, as a mother to three school-aged children, I have experienced it myself throughout the years. Conversations surrounding education have evolved, especially conversations about a parent’s voice when they are advocating for their children.
Recently, it feels like the communication lines have been strained, or even severed, between home and school – where our children spend most of their day.
Some changes became painfully obvious to parents during the pandemic, as our living rooms became classrooms. Quickly, parents came to realize exactly what their children’s days looked like.
Many parents have told me that they were surprised and disappointed by what they learned about their children’s educational experience. And when parents vocalized these concerns in school board meetings, they were often met with silence or dismissed.
As I said on the floor of the House of Representatives, sending a child to a public school does not terminate the parents’ rights at the door. When I worked in child services, I assisted with the care of children in foster care. I saw how the process worked firsthand.
When foster parents are caring for children in custody of the state, they can’t give those kids a haircut without permission from the child’s biological parents. Why shouldn’t the same rules apply to our students’ well-being in the classroom?
Here in southern Indiana, we’re lucky. Most of our school districts go above and beyond to communicate with parents and inform them about, and empower them in, their children’s education. Tragically, this is not a universal experience across our country.
In fact, one father in Virginia had to learn his daughter was assaulted in a high school bathroom from his child, not the school.
Just last month, a New Jersey judge ruled to block multiple school districts from notifying parents of a child’s gender identity change.
Stories like these shouldn’t become the new normal.
That is exactly why House Republicans made commitments to address this problem and pushed for legislation that culminated in H.R. 5, the “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” We heard the pleas of parents across America and knew we couldn’t stand by as parental rights are being eroded in our public schools. I was proud to be an original champion of H.R. 5 and support its swift passage in the House.
This bill reaffirmed the fundamental relationship that had long existed between parents and teachers in America – that parents have the right to make informed decisions about their children’s education.
As we highlighted extensively during the House Education and Workforce Committee’s consideration of the bill, The “Parents Bill of Rights” contains five basic principles to ensure: that parents have the right to know what their children are being taught; that parents have the right to be heard; that parents have the right to see the school budget; that parents have the right to protect their children’s privacy; and that parents have a right to keep their children safe.
Furthermore, I was happy to add to this legislation during the committee process with an amendment to require notification of parents when their student isn’t reading at a grade-level proficiency by the end of third grade – an important time when kids start to transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Our child literacy rates are falling behind, and the more parents can help the better. But to help they must be informed.
Years ago, we had no need for this kind of legislative action. But unfortunately, in today’s world this bill is necessary because school districts across the country have failed to deliver on these basic principles. The American education system is failing us.
This debate has inspired my colleagues and me to continue to take steps to strengthen our schools and empower parents. For me, this includes actions to expand choices for parents. This is why I will always be a strong supporter of school choice and education savings accounts, which keep parents squarely in the driver’s seat.
Parents know what is best for their student. As members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce say, it’s time to apply our most fundamental principle, freedom, to our most fundamental system, education.
Now, as a member of the committee, I have a seat at the table for parents inside the committee room. It’s important that we protect and restore parents’ original role in their children’s education, because in the vast majority of cases, no one will be a better advocate for their children than parents. And I, along with my House Republican colleagues, won’t stop until we achieve this mission.
Thankfully, we fought for and delivered a bill to put parents, not bureaucrats, in charge of their children’s education by ensuring access to information, but the fight doesn’t stop there. We will continue to look for partners in our Senate colleagues and other opportunities to restore educational excellence in every school in America.
I won’t stop contending on behalf of my fellow parents because the rights of parents don’t stop at the classroom door.