House Republicans on Friday narrowly passed legislation that would fulfill a campaign promise to give parents a role in what's taught in public schools. It has little chance in the Democrat-run Senate, and critics say it will propel a far-right movement that has led to book bans, restrictions aimed at transgender students, and raucous school board meetings across the country, per the AP. GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who made the Parents Bill of Rights Act a priority during the early weeks of his tenure, said Republicans were "keeping our promise, our commitment to America, that parents will have a say in their kids' education." "At the end of the day, these are our children, not the government's," Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, who wrote the bill, said Thursday, per the Washington Post.
The bill would require schools to publish course studies and a list of books kept in libraries, as well as affirm parents' ability to meet with educators, speak at school board meetings, and examine school budgets. It would also mandate that administrators at elementary and middle schools get an OK from parents before addressing a child by a different name, pronouns, or gender designation. The bill passed 213-208, with five Republicans—mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus—voting against it. The Hill names those five as Reps. Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Ken Buck, Matt Rosendale, and Mike Lawler. The first four objected on the basis of wanting the federal government to stay out of local schools' business. Lawler, meanwhile, thought an amendment added by Rep. Lauren Boebert on transgender bathroom usage "went too far" and "unnecessarily targeted certain children."
Advocates say the bill poses a threat to LGBTQ+ students by potentially forcing them to come out to their families, which can sometimes lead to abuse or abandonment, per the AP. "It's part of a pattern of attempts we're seeing where the right wing of the Republican Party is really trying to marginalize LGBTQ people," says David Stacy, the government affairs director for Human Rights Campaign. Democrats are also opposed to the bill, noting that although they favor nurturing parents' involvement in their children's education, this bill has been designed to kowtow to a minority of parents who want to control and politicize classrooms, including via book bans in school libraries. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed that the bill would face a "dead end," and that it was proof the House GOP has been taken over by "hard-right MAGA ideologues." (Read more parental rights stories.)