After two years of educational turmoil highlighted by pandemic-driven school closures and curriculum fights, Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) is pushing to make parental involvement in education a Republican priority.
The South Carolina senator is using National School Choice week as an occasion to bring parents together to highlight frustration with yearlong school closures, a lack of transparency in curricula, and district officials’ unwillingness to work with families to give their children the best possible education. In a video released Wednesday, Scott spoke with three mothers who have experienced firsthand the negative impacts virtual learning has had on their kids and are working with the lawmaker to chart a way forward that gives parents an avenue to better their kids' education.
"When it comes to parental involvement, Democrats echo the talking points of big labor bosses," Scott told the Washington Free Beacon after the Charleston event. "But in South Carolina we listen to the people who matter most in this conversation: the parents."
"After more than a year of locked classrooms, learning loss, division, and charged rhetoric, it’s time to unite around an agenda that puts students and families first," Scott said.
Parental involvement in education has emerged as one of the primary political battlefields going into the 2022 midterms. Powerful teachers' unions have clashed with parents over who should lead on issues including school closures, mask mandates, and what kids are learning. House Republicans told the Free Beacon this month that they plan to center their legislative agenda around parental rights in education should they win control of the gavel come November. Scott's event signals that there would be cooperation in the upper chamber.
Nicki Neily, a Virginia mother and founder of Parents Defending Education, told Scott during the panel that she felt completely "disempowered" as she watched kids suffer during the pandemic. Online learning took a toll on kids’ grades and social lives, Neily said, and when parents spoke up about their kids’ problems, school administrators refused to listen.
"People felt disenfranchised and abandoned by the system," Neily said.
Neily told the Free Beacon after the event that "very few politicians" have shown interest in what parents have to say, and was hopeful that Scott would take what he heard during the panel to shape policy going forward.
"Over the past two years, it's become abundantly clear that very few politicians have any interest whatsoever in listening to the concerns of families—rather, they prefer to speak down to us or ignore us altogether," she said. "The fact that Senator Scott is engaged on kitchen table issues like school closures and parental involvement sets him apart from the pack, and we are so grateful."
On Wednesday afternoon, Scott will host a live panel discussion with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rep. Burgess Owens (R., Utah) on the same topic.