Parents Bill of Rights passes House, Rep. Owens says it would allow parents to be heard in schools
All four Utah congressmen voted for the bill. Opponents say it reduces local control over education
The U.S. House approved the GOP’s Parents Bill of Rights Act on Friday that would require school districts to allow parents to review school curriculum, budgets and other material.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has already said it will not be considered by the upper chamber, and President Joe Biden has also voiced opposition, so it is unlikely to become law.
The bill was approved by a vote of 213 to 208 after several amendment votes and floor debate from both sides of aisle.
All four of Utah’s Republican congressmen voted in favor of the proposed legislation.
House Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy said his party made a commitment to support parents’ rights in education. He continued, “Today, we kept that promise.”
JUST PASSED → The Parents Bill of Rights! It’s a good day in America for parents and students. https://t.co/9uKVh5Ow4n— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) March 24, 2023
Republicans engaged on the issue of parental involvement in schools after controversies erupted over the past few years across the country over what children are taught in school. Democrats have criticized the GOP over the issue, saying they are turning classrooms into political battlefields.
What’s in the Parents Bill of Rights Act
If the Parents Bill of Rights Act becomes law, it would require schools to publicly post their curriculum, and would also require a list of all books and other supplementary reading material in school libraries to be made public.
School boards would be required to listen to parents’ concerns and schools would need to facilitate a minimum of two parent-teacher meetings a year. Additionally, schools would need to disclose their expenses and revenues as well as alert parents to any violence at school events, among other mandates.
Utah Republican Rep. Burgess Owens was one of many co-sponsors of the bill and said on the House floor that the legislation protected parents’ “God-given right to be involved in their children’s education.”
Moms and dads know what's best for their kids - not the government. @HouseGOP will pass the Parents Bill of Rights and guarantee that ALL parents have a voice in their child's education. pic.twitter.com/D1Jk2qAcc7— Rep. Burgess Owens (@RepBurgessOwens) March 23, 2023
Some Republican opposition to the bill
But five Republican congressmen voted against the legislation saying they agreed with the aims of the bill but not the means.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., published an op-ed saying he is supportive of giving parents more control over their children’s education but said the GOP’s bill runs counter to federalism’s principle of separation of powers between national and state governments.
“The Constitution provides a limited list of federal powers,” Buck said. “As conservatives have rightly pointed out for decades, education is not on that list. My fellow Republicans in the House, confusing themselves with a national school board, believe the federal government should step in to protect parents.”
The bill amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to coerce school districts to abide by its demands in exchange for continued federal funding, a move some Republicans find contradictory to limited government.
Buck said if Republicans “take on this new power” of mandating the notification of parents when critical race theory is taught in schools, what would stop Democrats in the future from passing a nationwide curriculum “requiring those noxious ideologies?”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who also opposed the legislation, said in a tweet he doesn’t “want Congress more involved in decisions that are best made in local school districts.”
Earlier this week at a GOP congressional retreat, Owens said none of the bill’s proposals are “overreach” and that parents should have a right to protect their children.
“There should be no child in this country, based on their zip code, their color, their background, that should be stopped from dreaming the dreams they have.” - @RepBurgessOwens pic.twitter.com/BmYh0HbEuU— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) March 21, 2023
Democrats in the Senate and White House are blocking the bill
Schumer called the Republican bill “Orwellian to the core,” and said the legislation “will not see the light of day” in the Senate.
He accused Republicans of wanting to control schools and for abandoning their small government principles.
“If passed, schools across the nation would be forced to adhere to a panoply of federal regulations that take power away from parents and school districts. Again, let me repeat that: it would take power away from parents and school districts, away from educators, and put it in the hands of elected politicians,” he said.
“Again, the GOP that treasured small government, local control, is long since gone, replaced once again, by hard right MAGA ideologues,” Schumer said.
Biden also opposes the bill, saying, “legislation should not politicize our children’s education.”
“The administration does not support HR5 in its current form because the bill does not actually help parents support their children at school,” the Biden administration said in a statement.
“Moreover, instead of making LGBTQI+ students feel included in their school community, it puts them at higher risk. The administration strongly supports actions that empower parents to engage with their children’s teachers and schools, like enabling parents to take time off to attend school meetings,” the statement said.
Schumer and Biden’s opposition effectively stops the bill from progressing during this Congress.