Education Department Dissolves National Parents Council Months After Lawsuit

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
December 6, 2022Updated: December 6, 2022

The Department of Education (DOE) is to “immediately and permanently” disband a five-month-old national parents council after conservative groups sued it for allegedly being unbalanced and politically biased.

According to a Dec. 5 court notice (pdf), the department said it’s “immediately and permanently disbanding the [National Parents and Families Engagement Council] and that the Council will not hold any future meetings.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona first revealed the creation of the new parents engagement council on June 14, prompting rights advocacy groups including America First Legal Foundation (AFL), Fight for Schools and Families (FSF), and Parents Defending Education (PDE) to jointly sue the department in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 6, alleging the department had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act when it established the council.

The groups have agreed to dismiss their lawsuit without prejudice in the wake of the DOE’s recent decision, the two-page filing reads. Conservative leaders welcomed the government announcement, seeing it as a sweeping victory in the fight for parental rights.

“This is a significant victory for the American people,” Gene Hamilton, AFL’s vice-president and general counsel, said in a Monday release, adding that the Biden administration attempted to “paper over [its] open hostility towards parents and families.”

When launching its July lawsuit (pdf), AFL said the council was designed to mask what it called the Biden administration’s anti-child and anti-family actions, including the government’s effort to keep public schools closed, and the National School Boards Association scandal. In a controversial 2021 letter to President Joe Biden, the association called on the Department of Justice to investigate parents under domestic terrorism laws.

The groups said that the hand-selected council members included 11 organizations whose top executives donated to Biden and other Democrats, and most of the them have applauded the president’s previous decisions.

PDE President Nicole Neily said parents should never be shut out when their perspectives and values differ from the leading party. “Parents will not be used as window dressing to advance radical policies, and we will do everything in our power to protect and defend our children from those who would do them harm,” she said.

Ian Prior, the executive director of political action committee FSF, said the disassembling of the council “should serve as a message to the Biden Administration—we have only just begun to fight for our children’s future.”

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawmakers

The latest move came after five U.S. senators wrote a joint letter on Dec. 2 to Cardona, sounding the alarm over the “hyper partisan makeup of the council.”

Calling the disbanding “a major victory for parents,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a Monday press release that the Biden administration cannot call the council by its name “when it is full of partisan organization [sic] that do not represent the majority of parents.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) reiterated that “parents, not activists, should drive the conversation regarding how their children are educated.”

“I’m grateful to have worked alongside my colleagues to push back against the Department of Education’s efforts in this area,” Lee said.

“Parents, teachers, and administrators all share responsibility for ensuring the highest quality education for our nation’s children,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). “I hope the Department of Education continues to recognize the importance of this shared responsibility and finds productive ways to engage with parents because it’s parents—not Washington—who know what is best for their kids.”

Progressive-leaning organizations that were once selected for the council included Al Sharpton’s National Action Network that promises “No Justice No Peace;” the National Parents Union, whose president defended Attorney General Merrick Garland’s DOJ memo on school boards; and the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino activist group that had openly endorsed Cardona for the secretary of education position even before Biden took office.

Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.