Jan. 11, 2022

Dismissing parents’ role in their children’s education is not a politically savvy move

AS PUBLISHED IN THE MIAMI HERALD

An op-ed by Tripp Scott's Ed Pozzuoli

One lesson that was certainly reinforced in 2021, amid political upsets and COVID wreckage, is that parents will engage to protect their children’s health and education against dictates from out-of-touch politicians and bureaucrats with records of vacillation and failure. The battle has become parental freedom vs. the self-interest of the teachers’ unions.

Urban League research correlates increased parental engagement with improved student academic achievement; better behavioral outcomes, emotional functioning, and self-control within the classroom; increased attendance; lower dropout rates; and higher college enrollment.

As shown most directly in Virginia, moms and dads nationwide are revolting when kids were not only forced into extended lockdowns and mindless mask mandates in opposition to parents’ preferences but were also being indoctrinated into woke political agendas against their will. The parental uprising in Virginia intensified when Virginia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, insisted during a debate, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and make their own decision. … I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” 

Then at McAuliffe’s final rally right before the election, Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) boss was the keynote speaker, having just endorsed on Twitter an article headlined: “Parents claim they have the right to shape their children’s curriculum. They don’t.” It was the AFT who spearheaded the disastrous COVID-19 school-closing campaign.

Thus, at the most recent election in November, a potent dose of “parent power” evaporated McAuliffe’s eight-point lead, producing a humiliating two-point loss. The education issue cost McAuliffe the election.

School closings took away the benefits of parental involvement, opened yawning gaps in class participation and achievement (especially for minority students), and contributed to emotional issues so devastating that the surgeon general has issued a health advisory. 

Even The New York Times in a recent article confirmed the detrimental impacts of school closings on our children with increasing in mental-health issues, violence, and behavioral issues, and suicide attempts, as well as the decrease in academic achievement. With all this, the new year has begun with the Chicago Teachers Union forcing the closure of the third-largest school district in the country.

Naturally, when freedoms are trampled, minorities are hurt worst, to the extent that we have previously observed that COVID school closings actually morphed from a parental-choice matter into a civil-rights cause, hurting the very children and families that needed better educational opportunities the most.

Which brings us home to Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis. His contrasting commitment to parental and other liberties, even in the pandemic’s grip, has been so profound that he entitled his 2022-23 fiscal submission the “Freedom First Budget,” headlining how it “promotes freedom through high-quality education.”

In addition to record educational funding, raises and retention bonuses for teachers and principals, and $421 million for school safety and mental health, the DeSantis administration noted that “the budget also protects freedom and liberty by once again rejecting mandates and lockdowns.” Specifically, the document insists that “parental rights need to be preserved in making educational decisions for their children.”

DeSantis’s stand for freedom extends to school choice. It’s worth noting, that charter schools far outpaced district-run counterparts in keeping instruction going and minimizing educational gaps during the pandemic.

Which is one reason why the DeSantis administration was right to stand firm for school choice last year, threatening funding cutoffs when Hillsborough County’s education establishment overstepped its bounds and tried to close four charter schools largely serving minority students over parents’ protests, with insufficient notice and based on false charges of underperformance. This despite that the facts revealed that the Hillsborough school board’s own financial mismanagement almost led to a state takeover of its schools.

Democratic politicians in particular and the educational establishment alike should recognize, as DeSantis has, parental freedom to choose and empowerment. Parents, regardless of economic status or race, will always act in the best interest of their children, as opposed to unions and the many bureaucrats who have acted instead to protect special interests and not children.

If our children are to make up for the educational and emotional setbacks suffered during the pandemic, then parents must be an integral part of any educational solution going forward. Politicians that ignore parents may find 2022 a very long year indeed. Just ask Terry McAuliffe.

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