Teachers Unions Are Wrong: Parental Rights Are NOT ‘Anti-Education’!

With a nod to the country classic, “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia,” now we are celebrating the day they came back on!

On April 28, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law House Bill 1178, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, preserving the fundamental liberty of parents to direct their child’s education and care, and shining a light on what goes on in the public schools. This bill is based on our model legislation, and we were proud to support it. 

With the stroke of the governor’s pen, Georgia became the 15th state to preserve these rights in statutory law. (A majority of states recognize these rights in their courts but have not yet codified them in the legal code.)

Georgia’s new Parents’ Bill of Rights now fills at least two vital needs in Georgia law: First, it preserves “a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and care of their minor children.” While courts across the country differ on the level of respect they afford to parental rights, their respect for fundamental rights is uniformly very high, demanding “strict scrutiny protection”: the strongest possible level of judicial review. So, this codifying of parental rights as fundamental leaves no room for ambiguity on the level of protection they are to receive in Georgia courts.

Second, it provides that “important information relating to a minor child should not be withheld, either inadvertently or purposefully, from his or her parent, including information relating to the minor child’s education.”

While the quote above comes from the General Assembly’s “findings” and is not necessarily legally binding in itself, it is a good summary of what is laid out in detail (and in very legally binding fashion) throughout the rest of the law.

As you may imagine, national teacher unions and special interest groups fought this bill, calling it “anti-education.” But the only thing the law does is permit parents to see and know what their child is learning, what records are being kept on their child, and how their child is doing in school. If that is “anti-education,” they have a strange definition of “education.”

The law also reflects and preserves the freedom of parents, already constitutionally protected, to enroll their child in public, private (religious or secular), or homeschool programs.

In the words of Governor Kemp during the signing ceremony, “Making sure parents have the ultimate say in their child’s education should not be controversial.”

But for special interest groups, it is. And the controversy arises on one point: they want parents kept in the dark about what their child is learning in the public schools.

And that’s exactly why we celebrate the lights going on in Georgia.

Last year, the fight was in Florida (where we also won!). And as that struggle wound down, Florida state Representative Erin Grall had this to say about similar parental rights legislation: 

“Based upon the opposition to this bill, it is clear that liberties have been taken for too long with regard to accessing our children. The fact that any entity is concerned that their ‘right’ to access our children is being infringed upon makes the case for this legislation.”

Representative Grall was right in 2021, and, sadly, her point is even more clearly true today.

In New Hampshire, for example, this very year, another Parents’ Bill of Rights failed over this very issue. Nationwide teacher unions and special interest groups lobbied the legislature there because they opposed the idea that parents should know what is going on in their child’s life at school. They penned a letter warning lawmakers that providing information to parents about their own children in public schools would put children at risk. And, unfortunately, just a few too many of the lawmakers bought it.

The loss this year in New Hampshire is countered by the big win for parents in Georgia.  Parents and responsive lawmakers want to preserve parental rights because they understand that children are safer and experience better outcomes when parents are “in the loop” and are an active part of their child’s education.

But it won’t be an easy battle. Now more than ever, your continued support of our work is so vitally important.

It is only with your partnership that we were able to push through to success in Florida in 2021 and to see this huge victory in Georgia earlier this year. And it is only with your continued investment that we will overcome the opposition in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, where similar measures have failed to cross the finish line (so far).

Now, there is more help on the way, too. A recent survey, just released by the Parental Rights Foundation, shows that support for parental rights remains high throughout the country. Which should tell New Hampshire lawmakers that they just made a big mistake.

I’ll unpack that survey more for you in a future letter. 

But for today, the take-away is this: states would do well to follow the lead of Georgia in protecting parental rights, and not the lead of New Hampshire. When 83 percent of the public support an issue (as our Parental Rights Foundation survey found), it shouldn’t really matter what the teacher unions or special interests say—not for a lawmaker who wants to keep his or her seat.

We are on the winning team! But we still have so much work to do.

Lawmakers from New Hampshire to Iowa to California need to know the results of this survey. And they need good models to follow, like the one we shared at the American Legislative Exchange Council, which served as the basis for Georgia’s new law, to help them support families. They need us to show them how the law can protect children by empowering parents. And to get the word to them and to lobby legislators to stand with parents, we need your support.

So that you, too, can know just what I’m talking about, I will provide you with that model right here in this letter:

Section 1. The liberty interest of a parent in the nurture, education, care, custody, and control of the parent’s child is a fundamental right recognized by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of ____________.

Section 2. No agency or officer of this state nor any agency or officer of any subdivision of this state shall infringe fundamental parental rights except as provided by law narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.

It’s not complicated. Parents know what is best for their children. And they know that in order to act on that knowledge, they need their rights as parents to be protected. Because any infringement of those rights could one day lead to harm for their precious child.

You know that, too.

It’s why you have stood with us through the years, to pass laws in states like Oklahoma years ago and Georgia today. Together, we will bring good, solid laws to states like New Hampshire and Iowa—and the 33 other states that still need them—tomorrow, as well.

That’s why I am asking you to invest with us again today, to continue these efforts until every state has legal protection for parents, for the sake of our children.

Can I count on you today to make your very best investment of $10, $25, or even $125 to continue our vital state-level work?

I know many state legislatures are just winding down, and it may seem we have time before we gear up for 2023. But I can tell you we have already been contacted by lawmakers who saw the battles we have faced this year and are eager to get a jump on legislation for next year.

The time to fight this battle is right now, before the other side gets any stronger, and while such an overwhelming majority of Americans are still on our side.

So, please take a moment today to make your best investment in this worthy cause, to protect all children by protecting their parents’ rights.

Will Estrada

President, ParentalRights.org