The Republican-led US House of Representatives passed a bill Friday pressing greater parental choice in schools, as lawmakers pursue a divisive “culture war” issue they hope will be an election winner.
The “Parents Bill of Rights” passed in a roughly party-line vote, although five Republican dissenters joined the Democrats in rejecting a measure they have dubbed the “Politics over Parents Act.”
“In America, education is the great equalizer,” said Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “Every child deserves a great education and we know that when parents are empowered, students will succeed.”
The bill looks certain to sink without a trace in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but Republicans will use their votes to campaign on an issue that has been thrust to the center of the 2024 presidential election.
Under the legislation, public schools would have to publish the curriculum. They would be obliged to send parents lists of their library books and ensure that teachers are available to discuss issues face-to-face.
The legislation demands transparency from schools over incidents of violence and calls for parents to have a say when schools are writing policies concerning student privacy.
Education has become a flashpoint in US politics, with protesters flooding school board meetings to rail against classes teaching their children about gender, sexuality and race.
Republicans have been falsely accusing Democrats of using the FBI and local law enforcement to criminalize genuine debate on what children should be learning.
The House signed off on Republican amendments asserting the right of parents to know if their child’s school allows transgender students in bathrooms and join sports teams that do not correspond with their biological sex.
New York-based free speech group PEN America says it has counted 1,648 books banned in US schools and libraries in the 2021-22 academic year.
“The House Republicans’ school control bill is Orwellian to the core, and it will not see the light of day here in the Senate,” said the upper chamber’s Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“If passed, schools across the nation would be forced to adhere to a panoply of federal regulations that take power away from parents and school districts.”