The candidates for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia took to the stage in what proved to be the pivotal moment of a hotly contested race in a closely divided state. Republican Glenn Youngkin raised the issue of parental involvement in public schools and Democrat Terry McAuliffe took the bait:
“I’m not going to let parents come into the schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” he proclaimed adding: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.”
McAuliffe’s comments, remarkably out of sync with growing parental anger over what public schools were teaching their children, sparked a backlash that cost the former governor another term in the seat once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.
It is, in many ways, a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public schools, pushed by teacher unions to remain closed for far too long, isolated students at home with their parents who for the first time caught a glimpse of what was being taught to their children.
They did not like what they saw.
Parents in Virginia and nationwide were awakened and in all too many instances when they voiced their concerns were shut-down by members of the public education cabal who shared Terry McAuliffe’s belief that parents had no role to play in deciding what would be taught to their children.
That spark has ignited a “brushfire of freedom” that now rages across America as parents fight back against unresponsive and hostile school boards, turning once sleepy local elections into the front lines of the fight against woke indoctrination.
The battle is also being fought at the state legislative level. Here in Penn’s Woods, State Senator Doug Mastriano has introduced legislation that would “empower more parents to have an active role in oversight of what their children are taught.”
According to a state Senate news release: “His bill would require schools to post on a publicly accessible website an internet link or title from every textbook used, a course syllabus and the state academic standards for each instructional course offered. To ensure parents are aware of any changes throughout the school year, schools would be required to update this information no later than 30 days after any revision.”
Mastriano explained: “Transparency is key to ensuring that all parents have a seat at the table and can make their voice heard on issues that impact their children. Schools should be focused on teaching our children how to think, not what to think.”
Transparency has most often been a value associated with the Left, but when the Left does not wish to have its motives and tactics questioned transparency suddenly becomes a vice, a means for conservatives to enact an “extreme Right-wing agenda.” But, is having details of school curricula readily available to parents either “extreme” or even “Right-wing?”
Or does the education cabal have something to hide?
Reaction from the Left to Mastriano’s transparency proposal was swift and predictable. State Senator Lindsey Williams claimed it is “an unfunded mandate that stokes the flames of this larger national debate that is pitting the public against teachers.” Williams went on to claim teacher “expertise” was not being “respected.”
Let us unpack that statement:
Teachers don’t set the curriculum. It is set by a Rubik’s Cube of state level regulations and policies coupled with some measure of influence by local school boards. The debate is not about teachers. Implicit in Williams’ comments is horror over the very fact that parents should even begin to question what is taught. Like McAuliffe, there is a belief that the education cabal knows better than parents what is best for their children.
Concern over an “unfunded mandate” is laughable. The administrative bureaucracy in our public schools has exploded in size largely due to the need to comply with unfunded mandates imposed by the state. Simply requiring curriculum transparency is hardly a major administrative burden.
The bottom line here is that the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) are two sides of the same coin fighting to protect their unquestioned power over a public education monopoly. It is why they fight to trap students in underperforming schools by opposing school choice options and why they think parents have no right to question what is being taught to their own children.
Parents, however, can have the last word through their elected representatives enacting laws to make school curriculum more transparent, and funding more school choice options. And most importantly, at the ballot box in school board elections which will take place this year in districts all across the commonwealth.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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