Last week, in an incredibly delayed response to parents’ outrage over the state of public schooling, the Department of Education announced the creation of the National Parents and Families Engagement Council. The stated purpose of this new body, which will be made up of representatives from a number of leftist organizations, is “to ensure parents can ‘constructively participate in their children’s education’ and to facilitate ‘strong and effective relationships’ between schools and families.”
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona described the council’s goals in glowing terms:
Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover… The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families, caregivers, education advocates and their school communities.
Like most Democratic proposals, such a council is brilliant only on paper. Given the Biden administration’s long-standing alliance with the educational establishment, parents should not be deceived into thinking that this move represents a substantial change of heart.
A History of Contempt for Students and Their Parents
Almost immediately after his inauguration, President Biden began advocating for the whims of the educrats (who are some of his most ardent supporters) over the needs of students and parents in the midst of the pandemic. In February of 2021, as it became more and more obvious that remote learning was failing children, the Centers for Disease Control kowtowed to the American Federation of Teachers and established draconian (not to mention anti-scientific) rules for schools that wanted to reopen.
In a September 2021 debate with Virginia Republican candidate (now governor) Glenn Youngkin, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe responded to growing concerns about critical race theory and LGBTQ advocacy in the classroom by saying, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach… I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision.”
As Youngkin capitalized on this blunder, the Biden administration and its proxies unsuccessfully circled the wagons to protect McAuliffe’s electoral chances. Former President Obama summarized their attitude towards parental worries about what and how their kids were being taught:
We don’t have time to be wasted on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage, the right-wing media pedals to juice their ratings… That’s not what this election’s about. That’s not what you need, Virginia. Instead of forcing our communities to cut back at a time when we’re just starting to recover, we should be doing more to support people who are educating our kids.
While McAuliffe’s campaign was entering its death spiral, Attorney General Merrick Garland was meekly acquiescing to the National School Boards Association’s request to have federal law enforcement treat parents who complain at school board meetings as domestic terrorists. Although the NSBA eventually apologized for the letter making the request (which was apparently composed with the help of unknown figures within the White House) and fired the man who they claim is responsible for issuing it, it is unclear whether the Department of Justice is continuing this effort to subvert parents’ right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Biden Administration Threatens States, Charter Schools
Instead of admitting to these errors in judgment and changing course, the Biden administration has blindly continued in its mission to secure the educrats’ power over the hearts and minds of children. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled the Parental Rights in Education Bill last February, President Biden immediately called it “hateful,” while White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki willfully misconstrued the bill as “designed to target and attack the kids …from the LGBTQI+ community.”
When the bill (the actual text of which was supported by a majority of left-leaning Floridians) became law in March, Cardona was quick to remind DeSantis that the Department of Education would be “monitoring” the enforcement of the law for possible civil rights violations. In the same statement, he none too subtly threatened to withhold American Rescue Plan funds earmarked for Florida schools.
Florida is not alone in suffering from the White House’s efforts at ideological extortion. The Biden administration recently decided to refuse school lunch funding to low-income schools that fail to adopt its radical position on LGBTQ issues. It has also targeted charter schools (which tend to engage more directly and effectively with parents) with new proposed regulations, including one which gives government schools effective “veto power” over new charters in their areas, a move that would gut the ability of charter schools to compete with the educational establishment. This policy shift is particularly puzzling when one understands that many charter schools serve poor and minority communities, which were once considered the base of the Democratic Party.
The Gaslighting Moves Forward
After seeing all of this, the American public is now supposed to believe that the Biden administration wants to heal the breach between parents and the educational establishment through this new council. Apparently, the White House has finally recognized the threat that the surprise victory of Youngkin in Virginia poses to its party’s fortunes in November, but is in no mood to address the issue in any meaningful way.
At best, this council represents a purely symbolic gesture meant to deflect attention from the systemic issues confronting American education with a body that will do little more than rubber-stamp platitudes meant to mollify discontented parents. At worst, it is an integral part of the Democrats’ continuing effort to centralize power over education by dictating curricula and limiting school choice. Biden’s new council will grant legitimacy to the liberal brainwashing of youth by implying that parents support such moves — thus silencing dissent.
Astroturf Council of Establishment, Dem-backing Groups
The composition of the council lends credence to this worst-case scenario. Most of the organizations represented have long-standing ties to the educational establishment and are its ideological “fellow travelers.”
For instance, the League of United Latin American Citizens cheered the appointment of Cardona and opposed the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Keri Rodrigues, the president of the National Parents Union, went even further by tweeting her support for the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate parents whom she maligned as “anti-mask/CRT knuckleheads.” Of course, no recently established grassroots parent organizations (not to mention long-standing groups that support charter schools and homeschooling) made the cut.
In the end, the more authority that the Department of Education has “to facilitate ‘strong and effective relationships’ between schools and families,” the less real power parents will have to hold their local schools accountable on a wide range of concerns. Parents should remain vigilant in this fight, for it is far from over.
In a previous article, I argued that the educrats and their media allies were trying to gaslight American voters into forgetting that they and their children had been betrayed by the educational establishment. By establishing the National Parents and Families Engagement Council, the Biden administration has decided to officially join this foolish attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of parents.
Robert Busek is a Catholic homeschooling father of six who has taught history and Western Civilization in both traditional and online classrooms for over twenty years. His essays have also been published in The American Conservative and The American Spectator. The views he expresses here are his own.