House Republican leaders are demanding that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona explain, among other things, his involvement in a letter that advocated for the use of the FBI to quell parents protesting at local school board meetings.
“From the very beginning, the targeting of concerned parents has been nothing short of a witch hunt orchestrated by partisan demagogues in the White House, Department of Justice, and the Department of Education,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the top Republican on the House Education Committee.
Foxx pointed to newly surfaced emails from the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Obtained and publicized by pro-parental rights group Parents Defending Education, the emails appear to show that the NSBA’s September 2021 letter asking the Biden administration to treat disruptions at school board meetings as “a form of domestic terrorism” was crafted at Cardona’s request.
In what Foxx described as “new-age McCarthyism,” the letter prompted Attorney General Merrick Garland to issue a memo directing the FBI to help address an alleged “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school leaders. That memo remains in effect, even after the NSBA apologized for and retracted the widely criticized letter.
“It is abundantly clear to me that Secretary Cardona must answer to the Education and Labor Committee, Congress on the whole, and especially the American people,” Foxx said. “Anything less is an insult to the proud parents who want to better the education of their children.”
In a separate letter sent to Cardona, Foxx, alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), questioned why 1 million U.S. students had to face school closures at the beginning of the 2022 school year despite a $120 billion federal fund specifically set aside to make sure public schools opened safely for in-person instruction.
McCarthy and Foxx wrote that Democrats argued that “radical spending was necessary for schools to reopen safely for in-person instruction,” but data suggested that only 4 percent of the relief fund was used as the vast majority of U.S. schools reopened in the fall of 2021, proving the claims to be false.
“Despite Democrats’ claims to the contrary, these funds were not needed to reopen schools,” the lawmakers wrote. “Because of this, some schools are grasping at any project they can find on which to waste these taxpayer funds, including indoctrinating students and staff with racist and divisive ideologies.
“As the head of the Department of Education, you cannot continue to sit idly by as families and students are left scrambling at the whim of special interests.”
By special interests, the lawmakers were referring to major teachers’ unions that are pushing for remote schooling.
“These are your political allies blocking the schoolhouse doors,” they wrote.
The lawmakers also demanded transparency from federal education officials. Specifically, they demanded that the Education Department hand over a list of all meetings or calls regarding the pandemic-related school closures since November 2021; a copy of any emails exchanged among the department, the White House, local school districts, and teachers’ unions regarding school closures; and any documents related to school closures and limited access to federal relief funds.