The House of Representatives passed a bill enshrining a “Parents Bill of Rights,” but it was met with criticism from the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
The Parents Bill of Rights Act, officially known as H.R. 5, proposed several education reforms, such as:
- Require more transparency in school curriculum and materials, such as books in classrooms and libraries, as well as how the school spends its budget
- Establish parental rights to know whether a school allows transgender girls to use restrooms or changing rooms, or play on sports teams that do not match their gender at birth
- Require schools to obtain parental consent to allow a student to use a different name, pronoun, or facility that do not match the student’s gender at birth
The bill passed along mostly party lines by a 213-208 vote, as congressional Republicans currently have the majority in the lower chamber of Congress.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, in a press release, claimed that the bill’s passage was an example of “divisive, performative politics.” Weingarten claimed that the bill would force school districts to “divert their limited resources from teaching, censor education, ban books, and harm children.” The union president said that the bill “has very little to do with actually helping students or parents” and that Congress should focus on “supporting our public schools.”
NEA President Becky Pringle said the bill will not help public schools because congressional Republicans “would rather seek to stoke racial and social division and distract us from what will really help our students thrive: an inspiring, inclusive, and age-appropriate curriculum that prepares each and every one of them for their future.”
Pringle claimed the bill would enforce so-called “book bans” when she said, “Educators are beyond frustrated that some lawmakers would rather ban books and deny students an honest education than work to meaningfully help our students thrive.”
The NEA also published an online letter for its members to send to their congressional representative to push for a “no” vote. The letter said the bill hurts everyone involved in public education, “This us-versus-them mindset hurts students, disregards educators’ professionalism, and diverts our attention from a basic American value: All students—no matter their race, ZIP Code, or background—deserve the support, tools, and opportunity to learn and succeed.”
The bill will head to the Senate for consideration, but it is unlikely that it will be passed in the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said the bill “will meet a dead end.”