January 12, 2022

By Joe Setyon

Did Education Secretary Miguel Cardona instigate the now infamous National School Boards Association (NSBA) letter that tied concerned parents to “domestic terrorism”? Newly released emails suggest he did, underscoring the public education establishment’s disdain for parents’ rights and highlighting the need to protect those rights.

In the September letter to the Biden administration, the NSBA alleged — without providing evidence — that school board members were facing a “growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation.” It then asked President Joe Biden to “examine appropriate enforceable actions” under “the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism.” Days later, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo ordering the FBI to work with U.S. Attorneys’ offices and other government entities to discuss “strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

As Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg noted, the NSBA letter essentially claimed parents are perpetrating a form of “terrorism” just by daring to stand up to the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other politicized content in the classroom.

So why did the NSBA send the letter? According to an email exchange obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Parents Defending Education (PDE), Cardona himself requested it. NSBA interim Executive Director Chip Slaven “told the [NSBA board] officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cordona [sic],” NSBA Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett recalled in an Oct. 5 email.

Fox News previously reported on emails indicating that the NSBA coordinated with the White House and the Department of Justice prior to sending the letter. But as PDE President Nicole Neily told Fox, the newly released exchange could “reveal that this administration’s pretextual war on parents came from the highest levels.”

And the federal government is getting plenty of help from a coalition of school boards association and public sector teachers union forces. In fact, according to the nation’s largest teachers union, Garland’s memo didn’t even go far enough.

In October, the National Education Association (NEA) sent a letter to the leaders of Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, warning of “ the alarming growth” of a “violent group of radicalized adults who falsely believe that [Critical Race Theory] is being taught in K-12 public schools because of misinformation spread on social media,” and effectively demanding that the tech platforms censor citizens who express concern about what’s going on in the classroom. Social media platforms “have both the power and responsibility to stamp out disinformation and violent trends,” the NEA said, before “demanding” that the companies “regulate lies and fix [their] algorithms to put public safety over profits.”

Of course, it’s difficult to take the NEA at face value when it says it only wants to regulate “lies” and “disinformation.” After all, this is the same organization that sued a parent — Rhode Island mom and Goldwater client Nicole Solas — simply for asking what her daughter would be learning in kindergarten. And it’s the same teachers union that has fought tooth and nail to stop parents from being able to choose the schools that work best for their children. Moreover, despite maligning parents as radicals falsely spreading the notion that Critical Race Theory is poisoning our schools, the NEA itself has explicitly called for teaching CRT in K-12, and mounting evidence continues to pour in about its toxic and widespread reach across the nation’s classrooms.

Between union bullies, school board bureaucrats, and the federal government, it’s become all too clear that the public education establishment cares very little for parents’ rights. And considering that various arms of this education establishment appear to be working in tandem to crack down on dissent, it’s no wonder that many parents see the specter of an education “deep state” that tries to silence them at every turn.

What’s the solution? A good start is Goldwater’s Sunlight in Learning Act, which would require public schools to post a listing of their learning materials online. Right now, the radical, racially discriminatory practices of CRT are running rampant in our schools, often under more benign-sounding slogans like “anti-racism” or “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI). Parents who speak up and ask questions are bullied, sued, and even tied to “domestic terrorism.” Giving parents the ability to check online to see what’s going on in the classroom would ensure they aren’t harassed or worse just for seeking answers. Of course, the government doesn’t always follow its own rules, which is why Goldwater goes to court in defense of parents like Solas to enforce laws that are meant to hold the government accountable.

The public education establishment doesn’t want parents to have a say in their children’s schooling. But it’s parents — not bureaucrats, unions, or the federal government — who know what’s best for their kids. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that make certain parents aren’t cut out of their children’s education.

Joe Setyon is a Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.

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