The strangest thing about the debate over parents’ roles and rights in their children’s education is that there is a debate at all.
As former teachers ourselves, we know firsthand that nothing is more valuable to a classroom or school – let alone to individual students – than parental involvement. Of course they should have access to instructional materials teachers use in class. Of course parents should decide when and how morally complicated issues are introduced into the classroom – if at all.
The idea of public school personnel laying claim to children – independent of and even confidential from their parents – would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. Good teachers bend over backwards to be transparent with their students’ moms and dads. They want parents to be in the loop, part of a team helping each student develop the skills necessary to succeed.
Adults who try to hide what they do with other people’s children for hours at a time, by contrast, have no business in a classroom. Yet somehow a large proportion of America’s school boards, school administrators, and teachers’ unions apparently take as a given this subverted idea that government officials, not parents, are children’s primary educators.
Sadly, this isn’t a new development. Like so many other once-respected public institutions, America’s schools have been breaking down for years now. Declining test scores and political correctness attest to just how far public schools have descended into academic mediocrity and "woke" indoctrination. It took remote learning during COVID-19 to alert parents to the dangers and failings of our school systems.
American students are not just taught critical race theory and other Marxist claptrap, they’re steeped in it. In classes ranking themselves according to their identity privilege, little kids are being forced to celebrate communism. This really happens.
Trans activism in schools, too, has progressed far beyond affirmations of respect and tolerance for all people. On the contrary, in Virginia, one school board shamelessly covered up a sexual assault committed by a trans girl to protect their narrative, and then had the victim’s father arrested when he called them out. Schools are helping children "transition" and keeping it a secret from their parents.
Meanwhile, our students’ actual educations are a punchline. Even before COVID, only about one third of students were at grade proficiency or better in reading, and only about 40 percent in math. After two years of anti-science school closures, those unacceptable numbers are only getting worse, and they’ll leave poor, minority communities long neglected by our education status quo even further behind.
And yet, caught red-handed in their extremism and negligence over countless Zoom classes, the left doubled down!
They denied CRT is taught in schools. Democrats’ Virginia gubernatorial candidate said at a debate, "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." President Biden’s advisors orchestrated a contemptible campaign directing the FBI to investigate and label protesting parents as "domestic terrorists."
And now, we’re witnessing the left’s fury at a new Florida bill that merely delays public school instruction about sexual orientation and transgenderism until fourth grade. The outrage and misrepresentations of the bill reveal that the left isn’t interested in teaching, but rather in pushing a woke agenda on our kids that is anti-God, anti-America, anti-free enterprise, and especially anti-Western civilization.
Legislation guaranteeing school transparency and restricting woke content are proliferating in state legislatures across the country, including in Alaska. They represent lawmakers’ essential first acts of self-defense against the anti-family theories now running too many school districts.
We got the jump on parental rights in Alaska back in 2016 when as a state senator, I (Mike) teamed up with Rep. Wes Keller on legislation that codified the recognition of parents as the authority in their children’s education. It gives parents the right to review any class, activity, assessment, or program and to withdraw their child if requested without penalty. It also requires two weeks’ notification about any curriculum covering sexual activity or reproduction with the same power to review.
But public policy alone can’t fix what’s wrong in our schools. America’s moms and dads are the "sleeping giants" who will mend our broken education system. At the end of the day, parents must decide what gets taught and who does the teaching at their kids’ schools – and for that matter, which schools their kids attend.
Public schools today willfully encourage child ignorance and family dysfunction. Conservatives must redouble our efforts to serve parents’ sacred right to direct their children’s education – not because it’s politically advantageous (though it is), but because America’s boys and girls are worth it.
Kevin Roberts is president of The Heritage Foundation. Republican Mike Dunleavy is governor of Alaska.