Parents should have the right to know what their children are being taught in school and to have their voices heard when they have concerns.
That’s why Rep. Julia Letlow, R-La., introduced the Parents Bill of Rights.
“It’s actually appalling to me … that we have to have a Parents Bill of Rights, but in today’s age, it’s absolutely necessary, because parents always deserve a seat at the table when it comes to their child’s education,” Letlow says.
The House passed the bill in March without a single Democrat supporting the measure. The Senate has yet to bring the Parents Bill of Rights to the floor for a vote.
“I know there’s been some interest from my Senate colleagues on the other side, but I’m hopeful that one of them will come forward and take it up,” Letlow says.
The Louisiana congresswoman joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss why a Parents Bill of Rights is needed. She also weighs in on the dismantling of the Department of Education, and why President Joe Biden’s student-loan forgiveness efforts are not the answer to young people’s college debt.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It’s my privilege today that we have with us in studio Congresswoman Julia Letlow of Louisiana. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.
Rep. Julia Letlow: Thank you so much for having me, Virginia. It’s an honor to be with you.
Allen: Well, I’m really excited for this conversation. We’re going to talk about everything education.
Allen: This is such an important issue to so many people right now, especially to parents. You have been such an advocate for education issues since you entered Congress. Why is this such a passion personally for you?
Letlow: Sure. Well, my background is in education, specifically higher education, and I firmly believe that education is the answer to so many of our woes. It’s the answer to lifting a region out of poverty. I have some of the highest poverty rates in my district. I serve 24 parishes in Louisiana. We call them parishes instead of counties. But I firmly believe that if you educate a child, you give them a future.
So I believe in education at every level, Virginia. I believe in it early childhood, our K-12 programs, our underutilized trade schools and community colleges, and also our four-year institutions, if someone so desires.
So you’ll find me championing education at every level, but I’d love to talk to you more about the impetus for the Parents Bill of Rights this last year and what really led to that legislation.
Allen: Let’s go ahead and talk about the Parents Bill of Right. I know five pillars make up the foundation for that Bill of Rights. Explain what the Parents Bill of Rights is and why you felt compelled that we actually need a Parents Bill of Rights in America.
Letlow: That’s right, that’s right. Well, we were sitting around at a listening session that the speaker had called with parents all across the country who—because one of the silver linings of COVID is that for the first time parents were sitting down with their children and working on their curriculum together, and many were seeing their curriculum for the first time across this country. And a lot of parents were appalled by what their children were being taught, so they did the right thing. They went to their school boards to voice their displeasure.
And across the country, and especially in Virginia, we saw this, that they were turned away. And then it heightened so much so that they were even labeled domestic terrorists by their own government. So that’s when we stepped in and said, “Something has to change.”
It’s actually appalling to me, Virginia, that we have to have a Parents Bill of Rights, but in today’s age, it’s absolutely necessary because parents always deserve a seat at the table when it comes to their child’s education.
And so, as the former educator myself, I know that when parents are involved, students succeed. And I would guarantee that many of my friends who are educators as well want even more parental involvement. And so for parents to be denied or turned away when they ask to view their child’s curriculum is absolutely abhorrent and should not happen, and so we decided on the Parents Bill of Rights.
Now, we have a Parents Bill of Rights already in place by our state Legislature in Louisiana, and so this was something that I was able to draw from Louisiana, and it’s really commonsense legislation.
First and foremost, if you would like to view your child’s curriculum at any time, it should be made public to you. You shouldn’t have to go do a public records request to even view your child’s curriculum.
Secondly, if you find anything that you have an issue with, you should be able to lawfully go to your school board and voice your concerns and not be labeled a domestic terrorist. You should be able to do that as a parent. That’s a right, without fear of retribution.
And then it goes into, if there’s any violent activity on your child’s campus, that you should be notified. We saw that awful case in Virginia, and that absolutely should not happen on another campus. If your child is involved in any violent activity, if there’s any violent activity on the school premises, you should be notified.
Letlow: That’s your right as a parent. And so, it is just about transparency. It’s about open communication. It’s about parents being able to view the books that are on library shelves. We’ve seen some of the awful books that your child could go into the library and see at any time.
And then finally, if there’s any data that’s being sold about your child, it absolutely should not be happening. That should not happen on any campus. No child’s data should ever be sold, especially in our public institutions.
So that was really just the pillars of the bill.
It’s received resounding support. I think someone was telling me about a poll that recently was done where 75% of parents agree with the Parents Bill of Rights. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent. Parents feel strongly about this on both sides of the aisle, so we think it’s a winner. I’m hopeful the Senate will pick it up and do the right thing.
Allen: And your colleagues in the House, obviously, agree with you that this is a commonsense measure because in March the bill did pass, but where do things stand in the Senate? It’s been several months since March. And has the Senate taken any action or indicated that they would take this up?
Letlow: Yeah, so, I know there’s been some interest from my Senate colleagues on the other side, but I’m hopeful that one of them will come forward and take it up.
Again, it is a very popular opinion across the country. It’s a winning message. It’s a win for parents. So I’m hopeful. I’m an optimistic person, but I think that whichever senator gets behind it, that we can form a winning partnership and bring it forward.
Allen: I love your optimism. It’s needed in Washington, D.C.
Letlow: Thank you. Yes, yes.
Allen: Well, I want to get your thoughts on another issue related to education that we talk a lot about here in Washington, D.C., and then I think increasingly Americans are thinking about, and that is, do we really need a Department of Education or is there a restructuring, some sort of dismantling, that is needed of the Department of Education? What are your thoughts on that?
Letlow: I know we talk a lot about this on my committee that I work for, Education and Workforce. Dr. Virginia Foxx is my chairwoman. She’s a force. She’s an incredible chairwoman.
And so, we are constantly looking for ways to scale back some of that authority that the Department of Education has and some of their terrible policies, their woke policies, that are doing more harm to our children than good. So I am open to those conversations. I’m open to finding ways that we can be better stewards of our tax dollars that are going back to our school districts.
So I am confident that Dr. Foxx is going to lead the charge in whichever direction we decide to go in our conference as a Republican Party. But again, she’s a force to be reckoned with. And please, America, have no doubt that she will be reining in the Department of Education and making sure that they, again, are doing what’s right for our children and our parents.
Allen: It’s really critical and it’s encouraging to hear that there’s people who are thinking about this really critically and what the right next steps are.
Allen: Now, we are at a point where student loan repayments are returning, and just within the past week, I’ve had two different conversations with friends who are my age who have student loans, and they have both praised President [Joe] Biden for trying to forgive student loans. And I said, “Well, let’s talk about this a little bit more.”
What would you say to young people who are looking at student loans resuming, they’re looking at that price tag, they feel overwhelmed. And as we think about how to move forward on an issue that is so important to young people, but we also need to think about the whole picture, economic impacts, what would you say to some of your young voters who are worried about this?
Letlow: Sure. Well, I would say, a lot of this stems back to when you first get to your university or college of choice. And I’m a huge proponent, Virginia, of transparency on our college campuses.
Again, I worked in administration on a college campus, and so I know firsthand that there’s not a lot of conversation on the front end with our students, saying, “Hey, if you take out this loan, when you graduate, and you graduate in X, Y, Z major, this is going to be probably your take-home your first couple of years. This is when your loan repayment is going to kick in. This is what a mortgage is. These are what your bills are going to be.”
And I think that if we were more transparent on the front end with our students and talking about financial responsibility and literacy and making sure that they understand, I think you wouldn’t have on this backend young people saying, “I just can’t make it all work. I can’t afford it. I could use some relief.”
Because really, what’s happening with that debt is we’re transferring it onto other taxpayers, and that’s not fair. That’s not right, in my opinion, and many other opinions, that if you decided not to go to college, you shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s degree.
My dad was a financial adviser and he taught me, you need to really analyze before you take out a loan, before you have any debt, you need to make sure that you can pay it back. I think we need to teach our young people that, about how important it’s to be financially responsible and know what you’re getting into.
I saw firsthand some atrocious things where money was just flowing to students’ accounts. They didn’t really recognize or respect that they were going to have to pay back those dollars. And so then they’d come in with a brand new truck.
And it’s just infuriating that we are doing a disservice to our students, but also, to those people who did not elect to go to college should not be burdened with paying for someone else’s decision to do that.
So I’m not a fan of the president’s views on this. I will say that loud and clear. It’s a transfer of debt. That is not fair. It is not right. If you take out a loan, you should be expected to pay it back.
Allen: And ultimately, Biden student loan forgiveness was ruled as not legal, not lawful, but we’ve seen that recently President Biden has introduced a new form of income-driven repayment for student loans. Can you explain what exactly the president has done and what your thoughts are on it?
Letlow: I need to go just take a stronger look at all of that to see. I’m sure that I’m probably not going to be a fan of what he’s proposing just because, again, if it’s taking any of the onus off of the person who took out the loan and placing it, transferring it onto other people, then it’s absolutely not right. And it’s my understanding that that does a little bit of that, but I need to go spend some more time and just really digest exactly what he’s proposing.
Allen: I really appreciate your transparency with that. As they say, the devil’s in the details, you’ve got to look at the details.
Letlow: We got to sit down with it. And I promise you this, I again have no doubt that Dr. Foxx is doing just that as well.
And one other thing about that, I’m so excited that we are going to have the opportunity to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, hopefully this Congress. And so I know that that is one of the top concerns that will be addressed. We’re floating around ideas right now about how to address that and make sure that these terrible policies that the president’s putting forward do not come to fruition or light.
Allen: For those who aren’t familiar with the Higher Education Act, just give us a quick 30-second—
Letlow: Yeah, absolutely. So, the Higher Education Act actually affects policy for higher education across the entire country, so it will address things just like this about student loan forgiveness. It talks about [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], it talks about Pell Grants. It talks about all of those issues that relate to higher education. So if I may, can I tell you one quick story about Dr. Foxx?
Letlow: OK. So, I had just come to Congress and I was under wild circumstances, and I was struggling with what some would say a lot of women struggle with, but I’m sure men do as well.
But I was having a rough day or I was having the imposter syndrome, and I just thought all of these people come from lawyers, doctors. They have these amazing backgrounds that they come to Congress with, many years in government. And I said, “I’m coming from education. What am I doing here? I’m not qualified to be here.”
And I could tell that Dr. Foxx knew I was struggling with this, so she just had this—must be a God thing. And she sat down in front of me that day and she said, “Julia, don’t ever doubt the reason why the Lord put you here.”
She said, “Your voice is so needed, and I’m going to tell you why.” She said, “Next Congress, we have the opportunity to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. And do you know how many people on our side of the aisle have any background in higher education?”
She was like, “Very few.” She would say, “I would argue you and me and maybe one other person on the committee, so your voice is needed here.” And that’s when it clicked. I was like, “Oh, you’re so right. This is the people’s House. This is why we need people from all backgrounds of life, because your voice is needed here.”
This is why we need doctors. We need lawyers. We need entrepreneurs, small business owners. We need stay-at-home moms to be here. We need single moms to be here. We need people from all walks of life, educators, to let your voice be heard and share your level of expertise when it’s called upon.
Letlow: It was just a God moment. It really was. And from that moment on, I have not questioned God’s reasoning for having me here and Dr. Foxx’s reasoning for having me here.
Allen: Those are powerful moments. We have to hold onto those moments in our lives.
Letlow: I do. Yeah, I cherish them.
Allen: Well, before we let you go, I do want to take a moment just to ask for your thoughts on Nov. 17. That is the deadline for Congress to pass budgets to decide, how much are we spending in the next fiscal year? Where do things stand right now? And are you optimistic that Congress will be able to avert a government shutdown?
Letlow: Sure. Well, conference is happening right now, and I’ve chosen to be with you, Virginia.
Allen: Thank you for being here.
Letlow: But I’m confident that leadership is putting together a proposal that most of my colleagues can get behind, if not all. I’m hopeful that we will be able to do that. They’re floating around different ideas.
I think it’s within all of our hearts to not have a government shutdown. We know that that affects livelihoods, that affects our economy. It’s not good for anyone to do that.
So I am so confident in Speaker Mike Johnson. He’s a friend of mine, a colleague, and now my speaker. Actually, he has a neighboring district to mine, so we formed a nice, long relationship. He knew my late husband, but also, his wife Kelly is amazing. I digress.
So, he has proposed a couple different options to keep the government running. One would be a continuing resolution, maybe a continuing resolution that deals with some of our domestic issues at home. So I’m hopeful that we will take care of this before the close of next week.
And I’m also on the Appropriations Committee, which is amazing, a group of men and women. But we have done an incredible job of working on all 12 appropriations bills. This is only my second term, and I’ve never been under leadership that lets us bring all 12 bills separately, regular order. That has been a phenomenal experience.
And we’re so close to getting all of that done and pushed through, and that’s the way it should work. And then those bills go to the Senate, then they come back to conference. So that should all be taken care of, will be taken care of. Maybe we need a couple more weeks to buy us a little bit of time to get that process through, but you have to recognize that process has not—I don’t know when was the last time they had regular order.
Allen: It’s been a long time.
Letlow: So we’re getting our legs underneath us again, and all of us that are new to the committee are learning the process, so I’m hopeful. I’m, again, an optimist, but I’m hopeful that if anybody can do this, anybody can get us across the finish line, it’s Speaker Mike Johnson and [House Majority] Leader Steve Scalise, both from Louisiana.
Allen: Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time today, and thank you for your optimism. I love it.
Letlow: Absolutely. Great to be with you, Virginia.
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The post Parents Bill of Rights Is ‘Common Sense,’ Rep. Julia Letlow Says appeared first on The Daily Signal.
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