Ed Department launches ‘unprecedented’ parent council | Wender Mind Kids

Ed Department launches 'unprecedented' parent council

In recognition of a growing movement for parental rights in education, Education Minister Miguel Cardona on Tuesday announced the creation of a new Parents and Families Engagement Council.

The council includes representatives from 14 organizations working to give parents a voice in their children’s education — including families involved in startups, homeschooling and private schools.

In preparation for the 2022-23 school year, the council’s “listening sessions” are set to explore what schools can do to help students recover from the pandemic, according to the department’s announcement. The meetings will be about “finding constructive ways to help families get involved locally”.

“Would I like to have seen it a year ago? Of course,” said Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union, one of the groups involved. She began campaigning for such an initiative during the Trump administration, but added, “It’s the first time we’ve really got … a group of people representing parents and families at the table.” It’s unprecedented.”

Other participating groups include the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which supports families with children with disabilities; Mocha Moms, a network of black mothers’ groups; and the National PTA.

In public comments, Cardona, the father of two teenagers, often notes that he is “parents first” and has made “roundtable” meetings with parents a part of his visits to schools across the country. But his department has also been criticized by parent leaders, who said he has been more vocal about the pandemic’s strain on educators than parents who have endured months of remote learning and are still asking for tutoring to help their children catch up. Meanwhile, the parents have gained new political power. Those who felt overlooked by unions and Democratic leaders slow to reopen schools helped tip the Virginia governor’s 2021 race in favor of Republican Glenn Youngkin.

Rodrigues said she has been pushing to bring the “boldest, baddest and most beautiful parent organizers in the game” to council meetings. Ashara Baker, a charter school representative from Rochester, New York, and Lakisha Young, CEO of The Oakland Reach, which opens distance learning centers and trains parents to be literacy teachers, are expected to attend the council’s first meeting in July.

The next step, Rodrigues said, is for the department to formally define “parent and family engagement” so it can hold districts accountable.

“Right now, family involvement can mean anything you want,” she said. “It can be, ‘We showed you a PowerPoint. We have sent you an email. We sent a flyer home in a backpack.” That’s not good enough to get a lot of federal money.”

Bibb Hubbard, president of Learning Heroes, which helps parents understand their children’s academic progress, said the American Rescue Plan’s requirement that districts include the parent’s perspective in planning the use of aid funds is a significant development.

“I’ve seen this team step up and genuinely strive to figure out how to be representative of all parents when they look at their policies and guidelines,” she said, adding that Cardona has been the parent for the past two years City Hall joined the organization years.

Megan Bacigalupi, executive director of CA Parent Power, said this should include parents in California “where schools have been closed the longest.” State-level committees, she said, have not been as comprehensive. A task force announced in April on losing enrollment does not include parent representatives.

“Do you have the real-life stories of parents who come from troubled communities?” she asked about the new advice. “I want to see a real partnership. It’s really about taking our feedback and using it, not being defensive about it.”

This article was published in collaboration with The 74th. Sign up for The 74’s newsletter here.