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The debate over parents' rights in education

Why parents' rights matter so much in Kansas

During our extensive discussions in the House Education Committee last week on HB 2236, I stated that student academic outcomes are falling short, and have been for some time in Kansas. The results are an embarrassment for Kansans who work hard to educate children and we who support them as legislators and taxpayers.

For reference, the bill would establish parents' right to direct the education, upbringing and moral or religious training of their children including the right to object to harmful and inappropriate educational materials.

Despite teachers' best intentions, less than a third of Kansas public school students are proficient in core subjects, and fewer still are well prepared to enter college (many require remedial coursework in freshman year). It's no wonder that teachers are frustrated, and even embarrassed, by these outcomes. Their union representatives come to the legislature demanding more money (despite the K-12 education budget being fully funded each year, plus additional federal money) but give legislators and taxpayers no hope of improving student outcomes, nor supporting parental choice in education. (See the student outcomes here.)

Districts are thwarting teachers' -- and students' -- success

Teachers are frustrated -- we hear their testimony loud and clear. They're being held hostage by district administrators who won't increase their compensation or direct ample resources to the classroom to improve student performance. Teachers are rightly upset that their school and district administrators aren't helping to improve classroom learning.

Parents are often stuck, too, without a way to change the deficiencies in classroom learning or to remove their children from unsuccessful learning environments or schools where the values being taught are inconsistent with those of their families. That's why these bills are so needed -- to give parents and families the right to object to certain educational material or activities or withdraw their children from that class or activity without adversely impacting their academic record.

The debate over parents' rights in their children's education is happening all over America, and the states that offer parents the biggest role in education are the ones whose students are improving in a wide range of measures. Kansas public schools are well funded, and I have supported full funding of K-12 education. We also must recognize that parents deserve to have the authority and options they deserve to help their children thrive.

Get the latest facts and figures about education in Kansas here.


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