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House GOP passes parents' rights bill in clash over schools

House GOP passes parents' rights bill in clash over schools
Posted at 1:25 PM, Mar 24, 2023

House Republicans on Friday narrowly passed legislation that would fulfill a campaign promise to give parents a role in what's taught in public schools. It has little chance in the Democrat-run Senate and critics said it would propel a far-right movement that has led to book bans, restrictions aimed at transgender students and raucous school board meetings across the country.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. who made the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act a priority during the early weeks of his tenure, said Republicans were "keeping our promise, our commitment to America, that parents will have a say in their kids’ education.” The bill passed 213-208, with five Republicans — mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus — voting against it.

It would require schools to publish course studies and a list of books kept in libraries, as well as affirm parents' ability to meet with educators, speak at school board meetings and examine school budgets.

SEE MORE: How school boards became a political front line

In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., promised that the legislation would face a “dead end.” He said it was further evidence that the House GOP had been overtaken by “hard right MAGA ideologues” — referencing former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

The bill was an early test of unity for the 222 House Republicans and their thin majority. The measure showed how the adoption of an open amendment process in the House — a concession McCarthy made to win hard-line conservatives’ support for his speakership — holds the potential to send legislation down unpredictable twists and turns.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., successfully added amendments that would require schools to report when transgender girls join girls' athletics teams and if trans girls are allowed to use girls’ school restrooms or locker rooms. The bill would also require elementary and middle schools get parents' consent to change a child’s gender designation, pronouns or name.

Advocates for LGBTQ people said the proposal poses a threat to LGBTQ students by potentially forcing them to come out to their families, which can sometimes lead to abuse or abandonment.

“It’s part of a pattern of attempts we’re seeing where the right wing of the Republican Party is really trying to marginalize LGBTQ people,” said David Stacy, the government affairs director for Human Rights Campaign.