During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents across the nation voiced their frustrations over widespread school closures and harsh mask policies imposed on their children. With classrooms reopened and masking mandates phased out, however, many parents remain frustrated by the schools’ misplaced focus.
Tiffany Justice, who co-founded parental rights advocacy group Moms for Liberty, told The Epoch Times that schools are failing to offer a quality education for which parents send their children to schools in the first place.
“We’d like children to learn to read in school, we’d like for schools focus on academic achievement,” said Justice, a Florida-based mother of four and former school board member. “Our children are behind in school, and we see absolutely no effort by school districts, teachers unions to address any of these deficits.”
“In fact, what we see is increased money going to efforts like DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion), SEL (Social-Emotional Learning), or CRT (Critical Race Theory), instead of actually looking to improve academic achievement,” Justice said.
Rooted in Marxism, critical race theory interprets established legal, social, and cultural systems through a lens of a power struggle between supposed oppressors and the oppressed, replacing the class categories with racial identities. Many opponents of CRT argue that DEI and SEL curricula are vehicles to indoctrinate children with a race-centric worldview.
Facing popular outrage over CRT indoctrination in public education, school officials and teachers’ unions have sent contradicting messages. For example, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten claimed last summer at her organization’s biennial conference that CRT “is not taught in elementary schools or high schools,” but at the very same forum vowed to defend teachers who use the CRT framework to teach history in violation of their states’ anti-CRT laws.
“Teachers’ unions have a lot of control over education in America, but they do not put children first. They put adults first,” Justice said, adding that union leaders like Weingarten are “very upset” about the parental rights movement, which unites concerned parents and pushes for changes from classrooms to school boards, essentially disrupting the balance of power.
“The teachers unions are mad because they have been in control of many things, including school board elections. They have worked for a long time to stack school boards with people who are sympathetic to the teachers unions,” she continued. “No more will we allow that to happen. We will no longer allow teachers unions to keep our schools closed or to deny the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.”
This growing backlash has prompted governors and legislators in at least a dozen states to put forth efforts to give parents more say over their children’s upbringing. Under Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, school districts are banned from withholding records on students from parents, encouraging students to keep personal information from parents, or refusing to tell parents about changes in their children with regard to their mental or physical health.
More recently, in Georgia, a new law makes it a legal requirement for public schools to respond within seven days to complaints filed by parents about obscene books or teaching materials. Another Georgia law passed last month, known as “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” acknowledges that parents have a host of fundamental rights, including the right to direct the moral and religious upbringing of their children and the right to review all instructional material to be provided to their children.
All of these legislative efforts are backed by Republicans, who have continued to rally around the issue of public education since Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin, campaigning on a pro-parental rights, anti-CRT platform, won the 2021 gubernatorial election. Justice said that while parental rights isn’t a partisan issue, nor will her organization be partisan, parents are tired of supporting candidates who ignore their concerns.
“Our schools are failing our children, and parents are tired of funding failure,” she said, noting that political donations of teachers’ unions overwhelmingly go to Democrats. “Every parent wants for their child the same thing, which is to unfold their full potential in life. We fund schools with a lot of money in this country, and there’s no reason that they’re not able to teach our children how to read.”
When it comes to the upcoming midterm elections, Justice said every candidate should keep in mind that “2022 is the Year of the Parent.”
“We want to see our children be successful in school—every child, every race, every religion, every age,” she said. “We want to see your child being given the tools and skills that they need to be successful in life.”
While many parents pull their children out of public schools in favor of alternatives including homeschooling, it’s not an option for all families. For those who have to stick with public schools, Justice encouraged them to engage in their children’s education and make sure their voices are heard.
“Parents are the No. 1 driver of student success,” she said. “If your child is in public school, you must firmly insert yourself between the school and your child, and ensure that your child is getting what they need in school because they deserve it.”