Biden Education Department launches parents council to strengthen relationships between schools, families

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FIRST ON FOX: U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council in move to ensure parents can “constructively participate in their children’s education” and to facilitate “strong and effective relationships” between schools and families.

The council will consist of parent, family, or caregiver representatives from national organizations that will work with the Education Department to identify “constructive ways” to help families engage at the local level.

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“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,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “The National Parents and Families Engagement Council will serve as an important link between families, caregivers, education advocates and their school communities.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the National and State Teachers of the Year event at the White House, April 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Cardona said the council will also help to “foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest if students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future.”

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The Department of Education said the council will be a “channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education by helping them understand the rights they have,” as well as to create a “feedback loop” with schools to discuss how COVID-19 relief and American Rescue Plan funds are deployed to meet students’ needs and identify summer learning and enrichment opportunities for children in their communities.

Girl wears a face mask in classroom while working on school work at her desk.

Girl wears a face mask in classroom while working on school work at her desk.

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Education Department officials said that organization representatives will “reflect the diversity of the education system, including, but not limited to, families of students in public schools, charters, private schools, and homeschool.”

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For months, parents across the nation have been sounding the alarm about a lack of respect for parental rights in the classroom, amid decisions made by school boards surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Parents have taken to school board meetings in their communities, protesting mask and vaccine mandates for children in schools. Parents have also protested and demanded more input with regard to in-person vs. remote learning for their children during spikes of COVID-19. And they have protested school boards’ decisions on certain curricula in the classroom, like critical race theory and controversial sex curriculum for young students. 

Virginia school board meeting over mask policies gets heated.

Virginia school board meeting over mask policies gets heated.
(WTKR)

“Parents provide critical perspective, and they should always have a seat at the table whenever decisions are made that impact their children. And this is more important than ever in the effort to help students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anna King, president of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) said. “National PTA applauds the Department of Education for launching the National Parents and Families Engagement Council and providing a channel for parents’ voices to be heard and considered.”

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King added: “This is essential to help make sure the needs of students are met coming out of the pandemic and ensure every child has everything they need to make their potential a reality.”

Classroom with empty desks.

Classroom with empty desks.
(iStock)

Vito Borrello, the executive director of the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement, applauded the creation of the council, saying it “provides the opportunity to bring diverse parent voices together to inform the Department’s policies and programs, while also serving as a dissemination vehicle for engaging families across the country in equitable education policy.”

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The council at this point includes The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Fathers Incorporated; Generations United; Girls, Inc.; League of United Latin American Citizens; Mocha Moms; National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement; National Action Network; National Military Family Association; National Parent Teacher Association, National Parents Union; The National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment, United Parent Leaders Action Network; and UnidosUS.

The co-founder and president of the National Parents Union Keri Rodrigues told Fox News that the council is “an opportunity for parents and families who have been struggling even before the pandemic to have their voices heard because this is now a tab;e that’s being built together with our input.” 

“The education system in this country needs bold changes that put children first, not special interests,” Rodrigues said. “The boldest, baddest and most beautiful families are ready to get to work and have their struggle and solutions heard in the halls of Washington D.C.” 

Officials said the council will meet in the coming weeks to discuss ways to best “constructively” engage with schools.

“The Department and the Council will hold local listening sessions with parents, families, principals, educators, and school community members to better understand the needs of students as they start the 2022-23 school year,” the Education Department said.