Parent's Education Bill of Rights: Use It or Lose It

Parent's Education Bill of Rights: Use It or Lose It

Remember when MSNBC’s  Melissa Harris Perry enraged a nation in that infamous MSNBC promo where she said, at “we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children?,” adding “we haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘These are our children.’ …we have to break through our kind of private idea that ‘kids belong to their parents’ or ‘kids belong to their families,’ and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

Perry’s comments reopened a wound as to whom the children belong. No, it’s not new.  As far back as 1992, educator Dr. Peg Luksik suggested that whoever controls the children (in public education) may well be to whom they belong.  Certainly, former First Lady nee Secretary of State Hillary “It Takes a Village” Clinton popularized the Kumbaya-hand-holding child-rearing chat back in 1996.

Schooling may well be a shared responsibility but parenting is not and it is because of the ever-creeping overreach of the federal government into the classroom and relaxed and reinterpreted regulations in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) parental concerns have been raised nationally, even in Texas.  Even though, there’s a bit of flux with the passage of the new Career and College Readiness Standards (CCRS), one thing is rock solid in the lone star state– a parent’s rights and responsibilities in Texas education.

According to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, parents have a lot of power but they don’t always know that. Under the laws of Texas, parents have the right to know exactly what their children are learning.  Dewhurst spoke to Breitbart News about parent’s rights in what he coined “a very important piece of legislation.”  The Lt. Governor added that he speaks to parents all the time who don’t even realize they have a Bill of Rights in the Texas Education Code (TEC). 

In fact, Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) is the Parental Rights and Responsibilities, better known as the “Parent’s Bill of Rights.”  It outlines the parent’s role in a variety of educational matters but most importantly it has very clear provision that parents have the right to access teaching materials.  Questionable classroom content that has appeared in the now presumed defunct CSCOPE curriculum hit the national news because of parent outcry.  In Texas, parents have the right to see all classroom learning materials and then some.

According to Sec. 26.006 of the TEC, a parent is entitled to (1) review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent’s child; and (2) review each test administered to the parent’s child after the test is administered.  Even though a school district “may specify “reasonable hours for parental review,” they must make teaching materials and tests readily available for review by parents. Additionally, provision (2)(c) states that a student’s parent is entitled to request that the school district or open-enrollment charter school the student attends allow the student to take home any instructional materials used by the student. Subject to the availability of the instructional materials, the district or school shall honor the request. A student who takes home instructional materials must return the instructional materials to school at the beginning of the next school day if requested to do so by the student’s teacher. 

In this subsection, “instructional material” has the meaning assigned by Section 31.002, which describes among these “instructional materials” textbooks, workbooks, supplementary materials, computer software, magnetic media, DVD, CD-ROM, computer courseware, online services,  and electronic media.  This section also identifies “other means of conveying information to the student or otherwise contributing to the learning process through electronic means and open-source instructional materials (i.e., online downloadable, free learning materials).

Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams previously told Breitbart News that Texas has not and will not participate in the federally led Common Core State Standards. Still, parental dander is up when they see Common Core textbook covers or handouts come home from the classroom. 

According to Lt. Governor Dewhurst, if a parent has a concern about any instructional materials, it is within their power to ask to see a book, a worksheet, or an online lesson.

This is a piece of legislation every public school parent should read.  Be informed.  Concerned about a textbook, a lesson, or an assignment, ask to see it.  The Parent’s Bill of Rights wasn’t always in the education code.  In 1995, now retired representative Scott Hochberg drafted it to protect parents in Texas from being removed from their children’s education process.  Parents, you have the power.  Use it.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @outoftheboxmom


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