Republicans Pin National Education Battle to Parents' Bill of Rights

Bill requires transparency in curricula, school funding

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Julia Letlow. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
January 24, 2022

Republicans are growing increasingly confident they'll retake the House in 2022—and they're positioning themselves to make parents' rights in education a national priority.

Rep. Julia Letlow's (R., La.) Parents' Bill of Rights was the focus of a Tuesday roundtable discussion among Republican members of the House Education and Labor Committee. The bill, which would pressure schools to be more transparent about curricula and spending, has garnered support in their party. A House GOP aide told the Washington Free Beacon that "most members" of the Republican Study Committee "seemed very supportive of the bill." With 107 cosponsors and support from the largest Republican caucus, the bill could become an integral part of House Republicans' platform after the midterms.

In November 2021, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin (R.) successfully campaigned on restoring parental rights in K-12 education. His election, and a wave of conservative victories in school board races across the nation last summer, emboldened House Republicans to take education issues to the federal level. Democrats hold only a 10-seat majority in the House. And with 28 Democrats retiring and at least 22 Democrat-held seats up for grabs, the odds of Republicans reclaiming the lower chamber—and bringing their parents' rights bill to the floor—seem likely.

The Republican bill would require state departments of education to publish changes to "academic standards." Likewise, the bill would force districts to publicize curriculum standards as well as budget and expenditures. The legislation also promotes parents' First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, which became an issue last fall after the Justice Department announced the FBI would investigate the acts of some rowdy parents at school board meetings as "domestic terrorism."

At Tuesday's roundtable, committee ranking member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) said the parents' bill of rights would help break teachers' unions' control of American schools. Rep. James Comer (R., Ky.) noted teachers' unions have leveraged their political power over the past two years to influence the Biden administration's coronavirus mitigation strategies in schools.

"Unfortunately a lot of the administration's policies clearly put the union bosses first and American students last," Comer said. "Some teachers' unions have really jeopardized American children’s education throughout this pandemic."

Letlow unveiled the legislation at a November 2021 Republican Study Committee lunch. Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee and a member of the Education and Labor Committee, joined Letlow, Foxx, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) in introducing the bill.

"Our common-sense bill simply establishes parents' rights to have a say in their kids' education—a principle supported by the vast majority of Americans," Banks told the Free Beacon. "That's why Democrats are the party of teachers' unions, and we are the party of parents."

Youngkin signed a series of education-related executive orders upon assuming office on Saturday. His first order aims to "restore excellence in education" and eliminate critical race theory in public schools. His second order seeks to "empower Virginia parents" by giving them the ability to decide whether to mask their children at school.

"We saw that hope just this past weekend, when the new governor of Virginia in his very first and second acts as governor … put kids first at our schools," Banks said at Tuesday's roundtable. "And that's exactly the type of leadership that Republicans are offering and promising when we take back the majority. That we will fight for our kids as well."