DALLAS (NewsNation) — A growing number of state lawmakers across the nation want to give parents more control over what their students learn in schools.
Florida and Iowa governors have signed new “parental rights” laws. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed four new bills into law which he said will “empower” parents to speak up about what is best for their child’s education, but critics have said they’re not in the best interest of the student.
Each bill’s specifications are different. In Texas, for instance, the new laws range from banning explicit books from school libraries to giving parents better access to what’s in the curriculum, allows parents to decide if their student should repeat a grade and lifts the budgeting cap for school education funding.
The four bills Abbott signed Monday included the following:
- House Bill 900, will set new standards for Texas school libraries to keep what he called sexually explicit content off shelves.
- House Bill 1605, which overhauls the state instructional materials vetting process at the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency.
- House Bill 1926, which extends the Supplemental Special Education Services program.
- House Bill 3803, which allows parents and guardians to elect for their student to repeat or retake a course or grade.
The idea of parent empowerment started during the pandemic when parents got more exposure to what their students were learning. It has since been a major hallmark of not just Abbott’s term, but a focal point for Republican lawmakers around America.
“What is really in the hearts of parents across the state. Parents know this fundamental fact and that is they know what is best for their child,” Abbott said.
Georgetown University researchers tracked more than 60 bills introduced across 24 states this year.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on over a dozen education reform bills this year. In 2022, he enacted what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans teaching about gender and identity in a manner that is not age-appropriate. Iowa followed suit by passing a similar law this year.
These issues are drawing out strong opinions on both sides.
Supporters said this prevents what they call indoctrination.
Critics said failing to teach about gender identity is harmful to students.
Educators said this trend of parents wanting more involvement in their kids’ education is not going away any time soon, and there needs to be some way to find common ground.
“I think people have to get out of their own way and really start looking at what’s practical and realistic and also what’s in the best interest of the child and not just what I feel,” said Dr. K, an education consultant and former teacher.
Meanwhile, Abbott plans to call the legislature back for a special session to try to create a school choice plan and provide taxpayer-funded vouchers for families to use if they want to send their children to private schools.
NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.