Biden Admin Wants Teachers to 'Partner Directly With Parents'—But Only In Puerto Rico

Under Biden, FBI has investigated dozens of U.S. parents who criticized school boards

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona / Getty Images
May 31, 2023

Since assuming power in 2021, the Biden administration has balked at parents who want to be more involved in their child's public school education, investigating them for criticizing school boards and silencing them on gender and race issues. That hostility apparently does not apply to parents in Puerto Rico.

On a May 22 trip to the Caribbean island, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona celebrated the territory's effort to reimagine its education system from a unitary structure—where the entirety of the island's 3.2 million population feeds into one school district—to a decentralized setup with seven separate districts. The move, President Joe Biden's Education Department said last Monday, will allow Puerto Rican public school parents to have a larger say in their child's education, a development the department argued would lead to more success. "We know that students do better when schools … partner directly with the parents, families, and communities they serve," Biden education secretary Miguel Cardona said.

In the continental United States, however, the Biden administration has scorned such partnerships.

In October 2021, Biden's attorney general, Merrick Garland, issued a memorandum pledging to investigate parents who "intimidate" school officials. The FBI went on to open dozens of investigations into parents who criticized school boards—six of the probes were assigned to the bureau's counterterrorism division, a March Weaponization of Government Subcommittee report found. Garland's memo came in response to a request from the National School Boards Association, which referred to parents as potential "domestic terrorists."

In April, meanwhile, the Biden administration issued new Title IX rules that make it illegal for schools to compel transgender athletes to compete on sports teams that align with their biological sex, despite opposition from dozens of parental organizations. One month later, in May, Cardona argued that teachers, not parents, "know what is best for their kids because they are with them every day."

"We must trust teachers," Cardona said, prompting rebuke from parental rights groups.

"The Secretary of Education suggesting that we blindly trust teachers because they're physically present with students every day at school is bizarre," Parents Defending Education founder and president Nicki Neily said. "The role of teachers is to educate, not to determine what's best for a child's life. That will always be the role of a parent."

The Education Department did not return a request for comment. 

The Biden administration has showered Puerto Rico with billions of dollars in federal funds, money that has helped the island give its public school teachers "a $1,000 monthly salary increase." The Education Department's eagerness for public school parents to be vocally involved in their child's education comes as Democrats across the country dismiss parental rights legislation.

Florida, Arizona, and Georgia have all passed bills that prevent public schools from withholding information from their students' parents. In states such as New Hampshire, however, similar legislation has prompted uproars among local Democrats and liberal teachers' unions. New Hampshire's legislature last week narrowly rejected a parental rights bill after the vice president of the state's American Federation of Teachers chapter promised to pull support for all Democrats who backed the measure. One liberal state representative who voted against the bill, Tom Hoyt, even lashed out at a parent of four who asked him to "please pass" the parental rights bill "without any amendments."

"Do you know why children's results tanked during covid? Their parents were incompetent teachers," Hoyt told the parent in an email. "Do your children a favor, let the teachers teach, and shut up. You're clearly no professional."

In addition to New Hampshire, top Democrats in New Jersey have aggressively opposed school transparency measures. After a school board last week enacted a policy requiring teachers to tell parents about their child's gender identity, Democratic state attorney general Matt Platkin filed a civil rights complaint against the board. New Jersey Democratic governor Phil Murphy quickly applauded the move.

"Hanover Township Board of Education's new policy requiring staff to 'out' LGBTQ students to their parents violates the rights of our students—jeopardizing their well-being and mental health," Murphy said. "I support [Platkin] in challenging the Board's policy."