Parents Bill of Rights passes House Rules Committee

by mcardinal

Chris Lieberman, FISM News

The House Rules Committee approved a bill aimed at strengthening parental rights in education, setting up a floor vote on legislation that represents a major Republican 2022 campaign promise.

“Parents are the stakeholders in America’s future,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) told the committee at the bill’s hearing on Wednesday. “It’s about time we started listening to them.”

H.R. 5, also known as “the Parents Bill of Rights Act,” would require schools to publicly disclose their curriculum, budget, and other information, and requires school libraries to provide an updated list of the books they offer. The bill would also force elementary and middle schools to obtain parental consent before changing a child’s name, pronouns, or sex-based accommodations. Schools that fail to abide by the new rules would risk losing federal funding.

Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.), who introduced the bill on behalf of herself and a mass of other conservatives, said she believes that parents “have had enough” of being pushed aside.

“Teachers unions and education bureaucrats worked to push progressive politics in classrooms while keeping parents in the dark,” Foxx said on the House floor Thursday. “The Parents Bill of Rights Act aims to end that and shine a light on what is happening in schools. This bill will reaffirm a parent’s right to review course curriculum, meet with the child’s teacher, and be heard at school board meetings without fear of reprisal.”

Foxx later added, “When parents are involved in their child’s education, students thrive. That is the guiding principle of this bill. With the Parents Bill of Rights Act, Republicans will help parents steer the educations of their children back onto the correct path where they can learn the skills they need for a lifetime of success.”

But Democrats on the Rules Committee slammed the legislation. Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) stated that the bill aimed “to continue to make the classrooms ground zero for the MAGA culture wars.”

One of Democrats’ major objections to the bill at the hearing was that it would lead to widespread book banning, with McGovern warning, “State Republicans are going on a book banning spree that would make the Chinese Communist Party blush.” 

However, the bill’s text makes no mention of removing books from schools, either by parents or by the federal government. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) admitted as much in the hearing when pressed on the issue.

The Biden administration weighed in on Monday ahead of the committee meeting, saying in a statement that the proposed legislation, “does not actually help parents support their children at school. 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. Legislation should not politicize our children’s education. It should deliver the resources that schools and families actually need.”

Having passed the House Rules Committee by a 9-3 party-line vote, the bill now advances to a vote by the full House, where the narrow Republican majority is expected to approve it. However, the legislation would then move to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it would almost certainly fail.

The issue of parental rights in education has become more politicized since the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and virtual schooling causing some parents to encounter for the first time what their children were learning in the classroom. Many concerned parents began attending school board meetings to protest school shutdowns, mask and vaccine mandates, and critical race theory and LGBTQ issues being taught in schools.

This rise in parental activism was met with a hostile response from Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose now-infamous October 4, 2021 memo instructed the Justice Department to investigate violence against school board officials, with some accusing him of likening concerned parents to domestic terrorists.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkin (R) also made parental rights a central issue to his successful 2021 gubernatorial campaign. Then, leading up to the 2022 midterms, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy included the Parents Bill of Rights in his Commitment to America, a series of campaign promises by House Republicans.