What Parents Really Want: Less Politicking & More Attention to Students’ Academic & Mental Health Needs
The “parents rights” debate is an exercise in political bluster over substance. The recent introduction of the Parents Bill of Rights Act (HR 5) in the House of Representatives is not only divisive and designed to politicize our schools, but redundant and out of sync with what parents really want. All parents want is for their children to have access to fully resourced schools, prepared and qualified teachers, safe and welcoming places for students to learn, and the supports to make sure all students can thrive.
Some members of the House Majority have seized on the issue of “parents’ rights,” and are blaming teachers and administrators for stonewalling and silencing parents during the pandemic. In fact, they’re making this a major conservative talking point even if it inflames the culture wars and burns down the public schoolhouse in the process. They plan to introduce parental rights and school choice legislation that could divert funds — through the expanded use of vouchers — from an already strapped public education system, in which more than half the students are students of color. This federal legislation is inspiring a host of controversial copycat bills and proposals in a number of state legislatures that seek to outlaw so-called CRT and undermine public education and academic freedom across the nation via parental rights laws, book bans and other classroom censorship bills, and voucher bills that defund public schools.
The truth is that existing federal law already requires schools and districts to provide parents with information about what their kids are learning, how they are performing in school, and the qualifications of their children’s teachers. All parents really want is a great education for their children. Recent polling from the National Parents Union indicates that parents are less worried about wedge issues and more worried about protecting their children from violence in schools, and ensuring that kids get adequate mental health supports and help in post-pandemic learning recovery.
Providing these essential supports and meeting students where they are should be federal and state lawmakers’, schools’, and parents’ top priorities. Let’s start by ensuring that schools engage with families and work together with them to improve academic outcomes.