Education Empowerment

Federal Parent Bill of Rights

A federal parents bill of rights sounds nice, but the bill proposed by House Republicans has the potential for unintended consequences.

The right of a parent to make educational decisions for their children is certainly under attack.

MSNBC host Mellisa Harris-Perry said, “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” 

Representative Lydia Glaize from Georgia questioned whether parents are qualified to make decisions about their childrens’ education. “I am extremely concerned that we would put money in…the hands of parents who are not qualified to make those decisions.” 

These statements justifiably make a parent concerned.

In this climate, the House Republican-sponsored Federal Parents Bill of Rights, at first glance, appears to be necessary to counter those who would come between parents and their children’s education.

But the bill never actually affirms the most fundamental right of a parent, which is that a parent is the ultimate authority in the life of their child until they come of age. This right doesn’t come from the government, but it would be nice if the legislation recognized it.. 

Instead, the bill lets parents do things like look at curriculum, meet with their child’s teacher, review school budgets, and inspect library books. These are important rights that every parent should have. However, many states are already implementing these reforms. Implementing them at the federal level undermines state authority and puts more power into the hands of the Department of Education, a department many Republicans say they would like to abolish.

More importantly, it doesn’t make any meaningful changes in the way public schools operate. What parents want is the ability to choose. 

Instead, parents need the ability to walk away from an education that isn’t meeting their child’s needs. States like Utah have passed education choice bills that fund a student instead of a system. Parents have always had an option to leave, but this kind of legislation makes it far easier, especially for those from low-income families.

Honoring parental rights is a noble cause, but opening the door for the federal government to have more control will have unintended consequences as political winds change. Never give the government a power you wouldn’t want used against you.