Several West Chester area moms and their children attended a press event in Washington yesterday for the introduction of the Parents Bill of Rights, which will be introduced in the House next week. The bill is sponsored by US Rep Julia Letlow of Louisiana and supported by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who hosted the event.
The proposed bill focuses on five key components:
1. Parents have the right to know what their children are being taught.
2. Parents have the right to be heard.
3. Parents have the right to see the school budget and spending.
4. Parents have the right to protect their child’s privacy.
5. Parents have the right to keep their children safe.
Stacey Whomsley, a current West Chester Area School District Board Director, was invited to speak at the event. Ms. Whomsley was asked to comment and pose a question about transparency regarding the school budget and spending.
“Transparency in public education, especially with respect to expenses and taxation, was a cornerstone of my campaign and advocacy within my community. Fiscal responsibility continues to be a priority for me as our district operating expenses have increased almost $100M in just ten years, indicating an almost 40 percent increase in spend over that same time period.
“I have learned a lot in my first fifteen months in office and while we publish our financial statements regularly, they are not easily digested by the average citizen. In fact, our district was recently audited by the Pennsylvania Auditor General and received severe criticism of our budgetary practices, especially with respect to reserve accounts. Last year I voted against our annual budget as it once again included a multi-million dollar expense increase and a tax hike for our residents. What can pillar # 3 do to help ensure that there is meaningful disclosure of school budgets and spend to ensure that our average citizens can not only understand but constructively challenge how budgets are constructed, executed, and reconciled each year?”
Ms. Whomsley shared that she was honored to participate in the event with her children and other parents and is excited to see attention at the national level on parental rights.
The term “parental rights” continues to come under scrutiny by many, as evidenced by the response to Speaker McCarthy’s tweet. Some interpret the phrase to cover book banning, censorship, and avoidance of teaching history, but the bill does not address those issues. Instead, it focuses on transparency and giving parents and taxpayers the right to view what is being taught. It does not state what should or should not be taught. The bill ensures that parents have the right to be heard and address their concerns. This point has become increasingly more important after the Department of Justice last year labeled parents as domestic terrorists for speaking out at school board meetings. A parent who spoke at the event made that exact point.
The Parents Bill of Rights proposes safeguards for children’s privacy related to their data and consent from parents prior to any medical screening or procedures. Additionally, the bill ensures that parents are notified when violent events occur at school and also protects the privacy of the students who were involved.
Critics of the bill include National Education Association (NEA) president, Becky Pringle, who issued this statement. “McCarthy would rather seek to stoke racial and social division and distract us from what will really help our students thrive: an inspiring, inclusive, and age-appropriate curriculum that prepares each and every one of them for their future.”
How does ensuring transparency for parents “stoke racial and social division?” Why wouldn’t Pringle’s “inspiring, inclusive, and age-appropriate curriculum” be available for parents to review? It appears that the president of the NEA may be the one creating division and divide within our communities across the country.
There is no greater job for a parent than to prepare their child for the future, and parents have not only the right, but the responsibility to ensure what their child is learning is appropriate and that it will lead to a successful future.
Why does the NEA vehemently oppose transparency and parental involvement? What is it that they don’t want parents to know? If their intentions are truly what is best for children, then there should be no debate on this topic. Yet, the issue continues to be fueled by the union bosses, while parents across the country voice concerns about lack of transparency and trust with their public schools.
To learn more about what is happening in the West Chester Area School District, visit www.backtobasicswc.com, a website run by concerned and active parents who disagree with Pringle’s sentiments.
Beth Ann Rosica resides in West Chester, has a Ph.D. in Education, and has dedicated her career advocating on behalf of at-risk children and families.