If there’s a silver lining to be found in the way teachers’ unions robbed a year-and-a-half of learning from students, it’s that parents across the country have become more engaged in their children’s education.
For months, we’ve seen parents band together to ask more of their school districts, and not a week goes by without another parent going viral for their inspiring and challenging testimony made before school boards during the public comment portion of meetings. It’s the kind of action that inspired a school district to stand up to the union and reopen classrooms, and forced Sacramento politicians to shelve plans to gut California charter schools.
Unfortunately, moms and dads like these doing the very thing parents are designed to do — protect and advocate for their children — are being labeled as “domestic terrorists,” and Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the FBI to begin watching them, ostensibly to silence their voices.
It’s a chilling threat not only to parents, but to all Americans who enjoy free speech, and the ability to petition their government representatives — input needed for real representation in a constitutional republic.
Garland’s instruction that the FBI convene meetings to determine how to deal with fired-up parents comes in response to a letter the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent to the Biden Administration. In it, the association requested help protecting school board members from what it said are threats from parents, specifically those concerned with the addition of Critical Race Theory to curricula. They likened parent protests and rallies to “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes.”
There is little doubt this action by Garland and the NSBA are attempts to intimidate parents and keep them in the dark about their childrens’ education and away from the boardroom; it will quiet some, and enrage others. The NSBA could encourage civil discourse among the most passionate parents, but instead, they’re begging federal law enforcement to shut them up. Rather than giving parents a seat at the table to negotiate agreements on the students’ behalf — the very reason these boards exist — the NSBA is working to ensure the only voice in education is that of the teachers’ union.
It’s hard to be shocked by the callousness of the NSBA and the unions after all we’ve witnessed in California schools. Most recently, teachers unions in California were able to force Gavin Newsom to issue a sweeping vaccine mandate through their hefty contribution to his recall campaign. It’s no different at a local level. Teachers’ unions are a significant influence on local board of education candidates through endorsements and campaign contributions. It’s how the United Teachers Los Angeles, which refused to fully reopen schools for an entire year, is poised to get a hefty raise. And, it’s how, despite evidence of severe learning loss suffered by children throughout the pandemic, they’ve distracted school boards into thinking the greatest educational need students have today is Critical Race Theory.
Perhaps if parents had the capacity to fund board members’ campaigns at the level teachers’ unions do, their disruptions would be tolerated, just as the unions’ disruptions to education continue to be, but that’s beside the point.
California Policy Center’s ParentUnion.org was created for a time like this. Even before the union-induced school closures, we were working to empower and mobilize parents up and down the state on provincial issues that were important to people in their communities around the state, and we certainly won’t stop now. The ParentUnion.org has grown tremendously in recent months (thanks, Gavin!), and is stronger than ever. We will continue connecting parents and aligned coalitions to each other, training them to respectfully engage with their local school boards, and ensuring they understand their rights to speak up on behalf of their voiceless children.
It’s sad, but true: our parents are used to threats. They stand up to teachers’ unions and administrators who cower, rather than protect our children, after all. Attorney General Garland won’t intimidate them, or us. Together, we will continue to advocate for California’s kids, and one day, we’ll all know who has terrorized our kids all along.
And it won’t be the parents.