The National Parents Union fights for parents’ voices to be heard
A recent poll finds that 90% of parents are more concerned with a high-quality and well-rounded education than a list of books and reading materials.
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“Educators, politicians, and school districts need to understand the first educator of a child is their parent,” said Maritza Guridy, Deputy Director of Parent Voice and Outreach at the National Parents Union.
In recent years, there has been an influx of educational bills introduced by many Republican-led states banning books, enforcing curriculum bans, and banning educators from teaching African American history and gender studies—some dispute teaching these diverse subjects aims to dismantle systematic racism and, others debate it encourages ideologies meant to destroy American history and place the blame on white supremacy.
AL DÍA spoke with Maritza Guridy, Deputy Director of Parent Voice and Outreach at the National Parents Union (NPU), a network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country that is united behind a set of common goals and principles to channel the power of parents; to discuss NPU’s recent poll, protest, and what parents are fighting for.
The organization believes in the need for transformation of education systems to eradicate generational institutions of oppression.
A new poll shows 36% of parents trust Democrats more than Republicans to develop a “bill of rights” that aligns with their views to improve the public education system. The poll also touches on the disparities present in the current curriculum and addresses curriculum bans in the United States, with 58% stating that a parent should only be able to have their own child opt-out of the curriculum or reading materials. While 18% believe that parents should be able to prevent all students at their child's school from having access to the curriculum or reading materials if they conflict with that parent's beliefs.
The poll showed that parents want high-quality and well-rounded education, and 90% say it should be guaranteed. Uniquely, parents want to ensure their children are not just college ready but ready for other careers: cosmetology, auto mechanic, plumbers, electricians, and other professions in trade schools. Guridy explains not every child aspires to go to college. It is crucial to identify this early to determine what path they should take.
There has been a surge in book banning, curriculum bans and alterations, and political interference in education.
Maritza explains how politics affects the curriculum citing the latest development of H.R. 5 or the “Parents Bill of Rights,” which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require each school district to post the curriculum publicly and provide any revisions to the state academic content and a list of books and other reading materials contained in the library.
After reading the “Parents Bill of Rights,” Maritza realized “they did not speak to parents” because “they did not gauge what parents want.” Adding that what parents want is to be involved and have access to information.
According to the poll, a list of books and reading materials are the least of parent's concerns, with anti-bullying measures in schools and providing students with access to career and technical education resources, as well as academic tutoring, at the top of their priorities, including encouraging teaching Women’s history (72%), Native American history (72%), Black history (69%), teaching about the Holocaust (68%), and Latino/a and Hispanic history (66%); contradicting the ever-growing list of states banning books that disproportionately impact people of color and LGBTQI+ individuals.
“What they are not being truthful about is if it is passed federally, states will then have carte blanche to go ahead and continue banning books, continue preventing educators from teaching true world history, continue to hurt and damage our marginalized communities, continue to put children in the LGBTQI+ community in danger, force teachers to out children when they have not even been ready to out themselves to their families,” assured Guridy.
The poll also revealed that 81% of parents say public schools should teach about and discuss the concept of kindness, empathy, cooperation, and collaboration, with 13% arguing it should be the parent’s decision how to teach their children these concepts.
As a Latina and mother of six, Maritza understands that in many Latino families, it is common to leave the school, the teacher, or the principal in charge of the child's education. She adds that times have changed; parental involvement is crucial, and there should be an initial conversation between the school, the teacher, and the parents. Also, include the preferred method of communication.
“There are people in this country that do not have a cell phone,” emphasized Maritza, who believes there should be alternative means of communication with the parents and families to allow for transparency.
According to Maritza, the National Parents Union is making sure political gains come to an end.
90% of parents that participated in the poll said students should be college ready and protected from any form of discrimination at school.
“Education is the key, whether it is a collegiate education or technical education. It is the key for our families, our children to succeed,” Maritza emphasized. “But they need a well-rounded education that involves the truth of all ethnicities, all backgrounds to help make them positive, successful citizens.”
Therefore, it's no surprise 89% of parents consider students should learn educational materials that are historically accurate, with 88% arguing students should not bet taught critical thinking; because 83% of respondents said students should be taught about how the government works and how to participate in democracy.
Maritza emphasizes the need for social-emotional learning support in the classrooms, “we need counselors and social workers in the schools. We need the nurses, the extra support staff, including the teachers, to have a livable wage.”
House passes GOP education bill
On Friday, the House voted and passed the “Parental Bill of Rights,” with a final tally of 213 to 208, with CNN reporting that “five Republicans crossed over to vote with all the Democrats against the bill; with many expecting the bill to not go beyond the House.
“Republicans are making a mockery out of parent’s rights, and parent voice and their recent political stunts have done nothing more than highlight how deeply disconnected they are from American families,” said Keri Rodrigues, President of the National Parents Union. “While a loud minority carries on about trying to get books banned, the majority of us are fighting to make sure America’s families can survive during this brutal economy, don’t lose more children to gun violence in our schools, have access to high-quality schools that give them the chance for economic mobility and teach the truth about America’s history.”
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