Alaska sole representative in Congress Rep. Mary Peltola joined her fellow voting Democrats in a failed effort to block Republican legislation aimed at defending and strengthening parental rights in public schools.
On March 24, House Republicans passed legislation titled the Parents Bill of Rights, on a 213-208 vote. The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate where it faces long odds.
The legislation would mandate that parents be allowed to see a list of reading materials that are provided by school libraries, and it would give parents a voice when schools create or alter policies surrounding student privacy.
The bill also states that parents are permitted to meet with their children’s teachers, while requiring that schools publicly post curriculum for the community to review. It would also require schools to provide parents with information about violence that occurs on school property.
In attempting to explain why she voted against the parental rights bill, Peltola told the Anchorage Daily News that she did so to protect students’ privacy and safety. She also claimed the bill might endanger students who are at risk of suicide.
“One of the ways I heard it characterized is as punching down on vulnerable students,” Peltola said.
It’s unclear exactly who, Peltola thought posed a threat to students in the parental rights bill, but she said the legislation puts “targets” on kids and “creates more negative attention their way.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy presented a stark contrast to Peltola and her fellow Democrats.
Speaking on the House Floor, just before the vote, he said the parental rights bill is about giving parents a greater say in the education of their children.
“The bill before us today is about every mom, every dad, and every student in America,” he said on March 24, just before the vote. “We believe parents should be able to know when your children [are] learning, know [how] your tax dollars are being spent, and whether your child is safe in school.”
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McCarthy clarified that the bill does not give parents the right to “dictate what’s being taught,” but it does let them know what’s going on in the classrooms.
“[P]arents should be able to see their school’s curriculum, publicly know what books are in the library, and get timely notice about any plans to eliminate gifted and talented programs,” he said.
He added that parents have a right to be heard by school boards, see school budgets, control how schools use their child’s personal information, and be updated on violent activity in schools.
“It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, the zip code you live in, or the wealth you have,” McCarthy continued. “Once you are a parent, [you] will give your life for your child.”
The parental rights bill is now headed to the U.S. Senate.
— Click here to contact Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
— Click here to contact Sen. Dan Sullivan.