Despite a recent parent engagement council launched by the U.S. Department of Education, parents have mixed reactions as to whether their concerns will be alleviated.
Last week, the Education Department announced the start of a National Parents and Families Engagement Council that’s intended to get families involved with their local schools. According to a press release, the Council will comprise representatives from organizations that reflect the diverse values of families across the country, including parents with children in public school, charter school, private school, and homeschool.
“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover,” stated U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
“The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families and caregivers, education advocates and their school communities,” Cardona continued. “The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.”
Fourteen organizations are set to be in the Council, including the National Parent Teachers Association, the National Parents Union, Mocha Moms, and the United Parent Leaders Action Network.
Bibb Hubbard, president of Learning Heroes, applauded Secretary Cardona’s efforts.
“I have seen this team step up and sincerely make an effort to figure out how to be representative of all parents as they look at their policies and guidance,” Hubbard said.
Keri Rodrigues, president and co-founder of the National Parents Union (one of the groups in the Council), was also excited to see this move by the Education Department as her organization has been pushing for such a council.
“We think the secretary really needs to hear directly from parents,” explained Rodrigues. “Really the pain, the struggle, the anxieties and some of the triumphs they are experiencing on the ground. We’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing for this.”
Part of Rodrigues’ work is being a voice to groups of people she said aren’t heard, such as indigenous parents, foster parents, parents who were incarcerated, and LGBTQ+ parents. She said she’s excited to see representation for those groups, and she plans to talk about “hard truths” to Secretary Cardona.
“This is what I said to them when they invited us to join: We are excited to be joining the council, but don’t expect us to be dazzled by the conversation,” Rodrigues said. “We are going to come and have very truthful and very courageous conversations and say the things that need to be said at that table.”
But to Parents Defending Education President, Nicole Neily, the Education Department only recruited a bunch of “yes men” since the organizations invited all hold similar beliefs.
“Quite obviously, the White House was looking for a group of yes men who would rubber-stamp their agenda because the lack of viewpoint diversity of the groups who were invited is astonishing,” Neily told the Washington Examiner. “Actions speak louder than words, and American parents still remember how this administration coordinated with the NSBA to silence well-founded concerns about the state of our schools.”
Back in October, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) likened upset parents at school board meetings to domestic terrorists. The NSBA has since apologized, but that was after the Department of Justice formed a task force to look into threats against school board members.
Organizations invited to be on the Education Department’s parent council reportedly defended the NSBA’s letter, such as the National Parents Union.
The Director of Outreach for Parents Defending Education, Erika Sanzi, told the Daily Caller that the Biden administration cannot alleviate parent concerns with the type of organizations on the Council.
“If this parent council is meant to quell parent concerns, the Biden administration probably shouldn’t have included groups that advocate for the very things parents are concerned about and excluded groups who oppose those things,” said Sanzi.
Over the coming weeks, the parent council will meet to discuss how kids are recovering from the pandemic and how schools are working to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. Additionally, the Council will hold listening sessions with families and school officials over the next few months to discuss needs for the 2022-23 school year.
What do you think about the Education Department’s new parent council?