Florida Works to Bring Education into the Sunshine

February 24, 2022

The Left's worst nightmare is an informed parent. And in places like Florida and Missouri, legislators are doing everything they can to build an army of them.

For conservatives in the Sunshine State, it's been a rocky road with the media and Democrats—who seem determined to misrepresent the legislation they've introduced. Even President Joe Biden weighed in, calling it "hateful" to give parents a voice in their children's education. "I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community—especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill—to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back," he tweeted, "and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve."

As usual, the proposal has nothing to do with LGBT discrimination. That's a convenient talking point for a party who hasn't found a way to combat parents' newfound influence in education. Dubbed the "don't say gay" bill by the Left, Florida State Rep. Joe Harding's (R) proposal is actually aimed at transparency (not that anyone would get that honest assessment from the radical media). On "Washington Watch" Wednesday, Harding explained that Republicans are fighting two things: Democrats and a faulty narrative. "It's a shocker the media would spin [this] to benefit a result they're trying to get," he said sarcastically. "Really shocking."

In reality, Harding pointed out, the bill is really simple. From kindergarten through third grade, H.R. 1557 would put a stop to discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. "There are some discussions at that point that would be better having at home," Harding agreed with parents. Secondly, schools would be required to tell parents about "significant changes in their child's mental or physical health"—like, for instance, second-guessing their gender. It all goes back, Harding said, "to the fundamental belief that... parents should have the ultimate decision in their children's [lives]—and that the parent knows their child better than a bureaucrat in a school district. Period."

Lastly, in a unique twist, Florida Republicans want to give all parents the right—and means—to sue the school district if they aren't getting the information they need. If a mom or dad can't afford to hire an attorney, the state board of education would hire a magistrate and pay for it. "We operate in the sunshine in Florida, we often say," Harding told listeners, "except when it comes to our students' education. And we're going to fix that."

He's right. Making sure that the "public servants" abide by the law is extremely challenging, as I know very well from my time in serving in the Louisiana legislature. You must have a means of enforcement. These days, we can't expect the education establishment—which is usually behind these bad ideas—to police themselves. Right now, we have third graders who can't read or write, but they can tell you what the 52 genders are. That needs to change, and it's going to take measures like this one to stop the sexual indoctrination and jump start the learning.

Missourians must agree, because they're pushing a parental rights bill too. FRC's senior fellow for Education Studies, Meg Kilgannon, isn't exactly surprised. "We spent last year educating our kids through the pandemic," she pointed out, "and it's sort of a Rosie the Riveter situation, where when we were needed, [parents] were there. [Schools] were expecting us to work and do the job. And now that they're back in charge, they want us to go home and go back to our lives and just let the 'experts' handle it. And fortunately, parents are not just sitting back. They're seeking more information from their schools. And when they are not getting it at the school level, they're going to their state legislators..."

FRC Action has been proud to be a part of that movement, encouraging parents through events like our School Board Boot Camp. This weekend, we're taking the training on the road to Lynchburg, Virginia for a special education summit with the Noah Webster Educational Foundation. (Details here.) The goal is to replicate that in more and more states.

Meanwhile, if you're one of the people looking for a way to make a difference, Meg Kilgannon encourages you to connect with us and get engaged. But also, as she reminds everyone, "The people that we've encouraged to run for school board who have done it and are now serving need our prayer support and our practical support so that they can do their jobs on behalf of all the nation's children." Maybe you aren't on the local school board. Maybe you don't have kids in the public school. You can still use your voice: in the debate and in prayer for these state efforts and parents, fighting to bring light to a dark world.