Louisiana Congresswoman Julia Letlow's Parents Bill of Rights clears House
Republican Louisiana U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow said her "Parents Bill of Rights" that passed the House Friday would give moms and dads greater classroom clout if it becomes a national law.
"H.R. 5 is about one simple and fundamental principle – parents should always have a seat at the table when it comes to their child’s education," Letlow said Thursday in a floor speech preceding Friday's vote. "We believe that learning is a partnership between a family and their child’s teachers. This bill is the vehicle by which we can put parents and educators together at the same table to have a productive dialogue."
Letlow said her bill would make it easier for parents engage with teachers, administrators and school board members making decisions about everything from curriculum to budgets.
"My heart is in education," Letlow said in previous interview with USA Today Network. "This sets a standard for parents."
The bill narrowly passed 213-208 along party lines with no Democrats voting in favor.
Letlow said the issue was elevated as schools turned to virtual learning during the COVID pandemic and parents became alarmed by some of the material being taught, specifically what Letlow described as "sexually explicit" material that could be inappropriate for the classroom.
Her bill had the support of the House GOP and Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who included the measure as part of the party's official agenda.
"It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, the zip code you live in, or the wealth you have," McCarthy said on the floor. "As a parent, you should have a right to know what's going on inside your child's classroom."
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the bill “Orwellian to the core” and said it won't pass the Democratic controlled Senate.
“If passed, schools across the nation would be forced to adhere to a panoply of federal regulations that take power away from parents and school districts," Schumer said. "gain, let me repeat that: it would take power away from parents and school districts, away from educators, and put it in the hands of elected politicians. Again, the GOP that treasured small government, local control, is long since gone, replaced once again, by hard right MAGA ideologues.”
Among the key requirements in the bill:
∎ School districts must post curriculum information publicly.
∎ Schools must provide parents with a list of books and reading materials available in the school library.
∎ Parents must be allowed to address the school board on issues.
∎ There must be public disclosure of school district budgets and each school's budget, including revenues and expenditures.
∎ Parents must consent before any medical exam takes place at school, including mental health or substance use disorder screenings, and before students are surveyed.
Though Letlow conceded much of what her bill would require is already available as public records, she says her bill would make the information more easily accessible by having it posted online.
"I don't think parents should have to file a public records request to see the curriculum or budget," Letlow said.
A similar law is already in place in Louisiana, where state schools Superintendent Cade Brumley said it is an effective tool for parents.
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But the National Education Association, the largest labor union representing teachers, said the bill could divide parents and teachers by stoking controversy over efforts to restrict LGBTQ material in libraries and teaching about systemic racism in America, known as critical race theory.
"Parents and voters agree that elected leaders should be focused on getting students the individualized support they need, keeping guns out of schools, and addressing educator shortages," NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: House passes Congresswoman Julia Letlow's Parents Bill of Rights