House GOP passes parents’ rights bill
WASHINGTON - House Republicans on Friday narrowly passed legislation to press a midterm campaign promise to give parents greater say in what’s taught in public schools even as critics complained the “parents’ rights” bill would fuel a far-right movement that’s resulted in book bans, restrictions aimed at transgender students and raucous school board meetings across the country.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has made the bill, labeled the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act, a top priority during the early weeks of his tenure atop the House. It was an early test of unity for the chamber’s 222 Republicans, who have a thin majority and showed how the adoption of an open amendment process in the House - a concession McCarthy made to win hard line conservatives’ support for his speakership - holds the potential to send legislation down unpredictable twists and turns.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., successfully added amendments that would require schools to report when transgender girls join girls’ athletic teams and if trans girls are allowed to use girls’ school restrooms or locker rooms.
House Freedom Caucus members unsuccessfully tried to add provisions that would have called to abolish the Department of Education and endorsed vouchers that would send public funds to private schools.
Ultimately, the bill has little chance in the Democratic-held 100-seat Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised it faced a “dead end” in his chamber and skewered it as evidence that the House GOP has been overtaken by “hard right MAGA ideologues” - referencing former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests, conservatives’ intense focus on parental control over public school classrooms has migrated from local school board fights to Republican-held statehouses and now to the floor of the U.S. House.
“Parents want schools focused on reading, writing and math, not woke politics,” Rep. Mary Miller, an Illinois Republican, said during House debate Thursday.
Public school education in the U.S. has long invited concern among some parents - usually conservative - over what children are taught. Historically, the term “parents’ rights” has been used in schoolhouse debates over homeschooling, sex education and even the teaching of languages other than English.
Recently, Republicans have tapped into frustrations over remote learning and mask mandates in schools, as well as social conservatives’ opposition to certain teachings on race that are broadly labeled as critical race theory, a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, won election in 2021 on the slogan “Parents matter,” and other political action committees poured millions of dollars into school board races nationwide.