Given the “emerging power of parents” in public schools nationwide, school districts would be wise to embrace such beliefs, according to a new report from Georgetown University’s public policy think tank, FutureEd.
“Prioritizing more meaningful parental engagement helps increase parent confidence, reduce resentment, and provide local education officials with valuable new insights into student needs, especially from parents. low-income and parents of color who have long been relegated to the periphery of public education,” the report states.
The report, titled “Leaning In, The New Power of Parents in Public Education,” notes the rise of a new generation of activist parent organizations in public education, some of which represent underprivileged families and communities. represented. Others represent conservatives “who see education as a way to push back against what they see as damaging cultural shifts.”
According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this new wave of parent activism as their kitchen tables have been transformed into classrooms, stoking parents’ frustrations with school closures and online learning. line.
“It has spawned new organizations of conservative parents opposed to mask mandates, vaccines and district attempts to confront issues of race, gender and sexuality in schools – programs that sometimes put them in direct opposition to the parents who seek equity in education and programs that have turned more than a few school board meetings into civic punches,” states the foreword to the report.
The report also examines the role of new parent organizations in lobbying state legislators to support parent legislation, with some of them drafting the legislative language.
The organizations have pushed GOP lawmakers in more than two dozen states to introduce legislation to give parents more voice in local school curricula, according to the report.
Topics have included program transparency, establishing or changing a parent’s bill of rights, race, and gender/sexuality.
The report lists three such bills introduced in the general session of the Utah Legislature, although none of them passed: HB234, HB366 and SB114.
HB234, sponsored by Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, reportedly required all Utah public school teachers to post all learning materials and schedules for each instructional day.
Teuscher dropped the bill after strong opposition from the Utah Education Association, with some 20,000 educators responding to an online petition titled “Stop Doing More Work for Teachers.”
SB114, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Education Committee on a 4-2 vote but did not receive a Senate vote. Fillmore said the bill “simply opens a door through which parents and school boards can work together toward adopting a district-wide curriculum.”
The third bill, HB366, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem, was also a transparency measure. He was defeated in the House Education Committee on a 5-5 vote.
“The power of conservative parenting backlash helped Republican Glenn Youngkin win the recent race for governor of Virginia on a ‘parents’ rights’ platform,” he says.
Speak UP United Parents, formed in 2016 in response to what members called systemic failures in the Los Angeles Unified School District, used its $1 million budget and organization to unseat the school board president in 2017 .
In recent months, Utah Parents United, a nonprofit parent advocacy organization, has encouraged parents to report to local school boards as well as the Utah State Board of Education.
Utah Parents United also encourages parents to search their board member’s voting records “so they can decide if this person truly represents their voice on the school board or if they need to find another.” person who could better represent their views,” UPU President Nichole Mason told the Deseret News in a previous interview.
Local UPU affiliates demanded that school districts remove from school libraries books that member parents deemed objectionable or inappropriate for students, with mixed success.
The report also examines the decline of traditional organizations such as the National PTA as nascent “more militant parent organizations” have sprung up across the country, propelled by the internet, videoconferencing, social media and financial support from foundations. .
“More interested in school district budgets and ballot boxes than bake sales, they push policy makers and local education officials for better schools, greater transparency, resource equity, teacher diversity, more school options and other remedies,” the report said.
The report says the shrinking national PTA has been driven, in part, “by the perception of parents and activists … that it is too white for a diverse student body, too affluent, too cautious, too connected to the educational institution (especially teachers’ unions) and diverts too much money from local affiliates to the national organisation.
According to the report, PTA National President Anna King acknowledges the criticism leveled at the organization.
“Sometimes people don’t feel like we’re taking a strong enough stance” on issues, King said.
It’s difficult for a membership organization that represents parents with a wide range of perspectives and priorities to achieve consensus on many topics, King told the report’s authors.
The report also talks about the role of social media in power dynamics and parents’ “pandemic-heightened expectations about their children’s learning.”
The movement is likely to continue, according to the report’s authors, Greg Toppo, author of “The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter”; Jo Napolitano, writer at The 74 and author of “The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America”; and Thomas Toch, director of FutureEd.
Lakisha Young, who started The Oakland REACH, “which has trained hundreds of parents historically excluded from school decisions to advocate for the needs of their children, just as many affluent white families regularly do,” said parents had increased expectations for their children.
“We’re not interested in ‘returning to normal’. We’re not interested in ‘continuity of learning’ because continuity of learning and ‘normality’ have kept our kids from reading,” Young said.