According to the June 14 announcement from the U.S. Dept. of Education, that federal bureaucracy had created the National Parents and Families Engagement Council that will include representatives from 13 organizations. Among those groups, the most recognizable is the National Parent Teacher Association, or PTA.
“Families’ voices play a critical role,” the statement reads, “in how the nation’s children are recovering from the pandemic.”
Asked about the new council, Erika Sanzi of Parents Defending Education tells AFN the Biden administration must be reading some “really bad” polling numbers when it comes to education. The new parents council, she says, comes after parents lost trust over school closures and masking their children during the pandemic – and then the infamous letter.
“Not only with school closures. Not only with mask mandates,” she says, “but also with that letter from National School Boards Association that referred to parents as domestic terrorists.”
Sanzi is referring to the controversial letter from the NSBA that asked the U.S. Department of Justice last fall to investigate “threats” and “acts of violence” that were occurring at rowdy school board meetings across the country. That request was happily and quickly accepted by the DOJ, which announced FBI agents would spread out across the country under the banner of a newly-formed counterterrorism task force.
When that story broke, a spokesman for The Heritage Foundation think tank told AFN the federal government was trying to “chill debate and scare parents.”
The public soon learned, however, the White House had not been surprised or blindsided by the inflammatory NSBA letter: A string of emails revealed the accusations about parents, and a request for a DOJ action, had been discussed by White House officials for weeks before the letter showed up at the White House.
In an Oct. 21 story last year, The Washington Free Beacon credited one group --- Parents Defending Education -- for obtaining the damning emails through an open records request.
So that political black eye is one reason Parents Defending Education did not expect an invitation to participate.
Sanzi tells AFN the groups involved in the new council publicly defended the letter, too, so their reward for doing so is a “seat at the table” to claim they care about parents’ concerns.
"From what we can tell, there isn't anybody on it that has been a vocal critic of the administration,” she complains.
What groups are named in the press release? Among the list is the National Action Network, a civil-rights group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton; UnidosUS, an advocacy group for Latinos; and Mocha Moms, a non-profit group of black mothers.
With the 2022-2023 school year approaching, the council says it will hold “listening sessions” in coming months to “better understand the needs of students” as they start the new school year.