March 23, 2023
Parents Bill of Rights ≠ Parent Empowerment
Last year, conservative state leaders across the country intentionally conflated Culturally Relevant Education (CRE) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) in an effort to mislead the nation, politicize our classrooms, and ultimately remove any teaching about race or racism from the K-12 curriculum.
Now, conservative leaders in Congress are doing the same thing with the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which recenters the culture wars in our classrooms and pits teachers and parents against each other under the false guise of parent empowerment.
Let’s take a look at what the bill actually calls for, and what it means for students, teachers, and parents.
What the bill calls for
Schools must post curriculum information publicly and provide parents with a list of books and reading materials available in the school library.
While this suggestion may seem positive, it sends the message that parents don’t trust teachers to do their jobs, and its intent is to limit teacher discretion and encourage teachers to remove culturally relevant materials from their curricula for fear of punishment.
Districts must offer parent-teacher meetings, allow parents to speak at school board meetings, involve parents in policy revision, and disclose budget information publicly. States must share publicly any revisions to academic standards.
These are all positive requirements that increase transparency and parent engagement. However, the vast majority of districts across the country already require these things.
Teachers want parents to collaborate with them around what is taught in their classrooms, but they do not believe they should be decision-makers. In a 2023 survey, the majority of teachers reported that while parents should be able to provide input on curriculum decisions, they should not have ultimate decision-making authority; only 2 percent of teachers reported that parents should have this authority. Teachers, with the appropriate guidance and resources, are best equipped to determine how to deliver culturally relevant content to their students.
“Parents are a critical part of the school community and can give me deep insight into knowing their child. But I’m a teacher. I’m a professional. I deserve autonomy over the work that I do.”
– Jennifer López, fifth grade teacher, Sylmar, CA
CALL TO ACTION
Preventing censorship is not enough. Education leaders must also provide teachers access to culturally relevant materials, encourage or require their use, and provide training for implementation.
E4E teachers across the country are calling on their legislators to both stand up against censorship AND support the implementation of high-quality culturally relevant materials, and you can join them.
Demand that your state leadership stand up against educational censorship and the intentional politicization of our classrooms.
And, our teachers are succeeding in making curriculum-related change in their own chapters! Let’s take a look at the campaigns two of our chapters are currently running.
E4E-New York Update
After a successful event in January with Chancellor David Banks, New York City educators kept the momentum alive in February and March by meeting with several lawmakers, education stakeholders, and community leaders to address critical issues in our classrooms.
Leton Hall, Linneh Quinn, and Liz Haela most recently met with New York State Representative, Michael Benedetto, and advocated for Bill A7220A, an amendment to require financial literacy coursework as a requirement for high school graduation.
E4E-NY member Emmanuel Jeanty has also been part of a team that’s been meeting with stakeholders over the last several weeks. Emmanuel, along with Valerie Green Thomas and Miguel Alls, made a trip to New York Senator Shelley Mayer’s office, to continue the conversation surrounding personal financial literacy coursework for high school students. They also discussed the importance of culturally relevant education and teacher diversity.
See video interview of Emmanuel Jeanty’s recap of meeting with stakeholders here.
Add your name for NYC Curricula
In March, E4E-CHI successfully presented recommendations to Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Education Officer alongside Skyline Teacher Action Team (STAT) representatives, CPS teachers and E4E members. During the presentation, CPS leadership expressed interest in our recommendations, verbally committed to adopting them, and shared that there is work underway led by the Skyline steering committee. The STAT pushed CPS leadership to acknowledge that there is more to do to refine the learning experience for students and teachers, including improvements to the curriculum’s cultural relevance.
In March, E4E-CHI successfully presented eight recommendations to Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Education Officer alongside Skyline Teacher Action Team (STAT) representatives, three CPS teachers, and E4E members. These recommendations, if implemented, can remove barriers to access for teachers and students and ensure Skyline has the best chance of success. To receive updates on these recommendations, please sign up to receive the Chicago Newsletter.
In April, E4E will release its annual “Voices from the Classroom” survey of 1000 educators from across the country, plus an oversample of 300 teachers of color. At the end of the month, we’ll share what teachers had to say this year about the state of teaching and learning in American classrooms, including more about their thoughts on culturally relevant education and the role parents should play in their children’s education.
Parents Bill of Rights ≠ Parent Empowerment