In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, newly elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin makes the case for a simple yet foundational principle that should guide our view of education: “Parents should have a say in education.”
That’s why it’s troubling to read an op-ed by a Pennsylvania public school board member from York Suburban blasting parents who’ve spoken out against board policies.
“No, I don’t work for you. I was elected by people who voted to represent you. It is not the same thing,” wrote this school board member.
Unfortunately, the York school board member’s callous words are reflective of what parents have heard from some misguided administrators in the past year who do not understand their job.
School boards do, in fact, serve parents and families. They have a duty to listen to parents’ concerns and wishes. They should even prioritize parents’ opinions over their own. Instead, some school board members dismiss and even mock parents.
Parents know what is best for their children, and we need to elect leaders who respect parental rights and encourage parental involvement. The first step in restoring public education is for parents and families to respectfully get involved with their school districts by attending meetings and keeping up-to-date with proposed changes to policies. Meeting information and agendas should be found on your local school district websites. Next, parents must take action during school board elections and ask candidates questions to understand their values.
“You should absolutely go to school board meetings and be vocal on what you think about certain issues. But also take the time to have a conversation with them afterwards, write letters to them or take them out to coffee. That can help connect these school board members with you, maybe break down a little bit of the difficulty in communication when there is a podium between you and them,” said former school board member Jeremy Samek.
Parents have received incredibly disrespectful backlash from all levels of government and have even been deemed “domestic terrorists” simply for opposing Critical Race Theory (CRT) and wanting to protect their children.
To make matters worse, Gov. Wolf recently vetoed legislation that would have required schools to give parents access to class materials, calling it “overly burdensome.”
The good news, however, is that more parents are getting more involved and some are even now school board members. They are speaking up and filling school board meetings across the nation.
Regardless of the backlash they may face, parents must continue to take a stand. One important method to challenge issues in public schools is school choice. Thankfully, two bills that would expand schooling options have recently been introduced in our legislature. HB1, Excellence in Education Act, creates a scholarship to assist homeschool families or help parents send their children to private or charter schools. Senate Bill 527 would expand school choice programs by increasing the caps for two tax credits.
Please contact your local legislators and urge them to pass these school choice efforts.
Just as Gov. Youngkin says, Pennsylvania laws should reinforce parents’ fundamental rights to make decisions with regards to their child’s upbringing and care.