Wisconsin Governor Vetoes GOP-Sponsored ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’

Wisconsin Governor Vetoes GOP-Sponsored ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is seen in Milwaukee, Wis., on Aug. 19, 2020. (Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has vetoed some two dozen Republican-sponsored bills, including one dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that would have given parents more say in their kids’ education.

Evers on April 15 signed 15 bills into law, while vetoing 28 others, including Assembly Bill 963, which would have established a number of parental rights relating to decisions regarding a child’s religion, medical care, and education, while creating a cause of action if these rights were violated.

The Parents’ Bill of Rights would have allowed children to sit out certain lessons that parents find objectionable on grounds of religion or personal conviction, while also giving parents the right to review any instructional materials used in the classroom and to request notice when certain subjects will be taught or discussed.

The legislation would have also allowed parents to determine what names and pronouns their children are referred to at school.

In a note explaining his decision to veto the bill (pdf), Evers accused lawmakers of using children as “political pawns” and called the measure divisive.

“Politicians on both sides of the aisle have to stop using our kids as political pawns,” Evers wrote. “I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to sowing division in our schools, which only hurts our kids and learning in our classrooms.”

Acknowledging that “parents are the first and best teachers our kids have” and that improving children’s school performance is best achieved when parents are actively involved in their kids’ lives, Evers called for different measures than the ones set out in the bill so that “we can better empower and facilitate parent engagement, which is critically important for our kids’ success.”

Evers also vetoed a bill that would have banned teaching the concept known as critical race theory in Wisconsin schools and that would have prevented discrimination against people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Republicans lack the necessary votes to override Evers’s vetoes.

Parents’ Voices ‘Not Being Heard’

Wisconsin state Rep. Rick Gundrum, a Republican who co-authored bill 963, issued a statement responding to the veto, accusing Evers of ignoring the concerns of parents who object to certain ideas, materials, and practices in classrooms.

“This legislation was created after hearing the concerns of many parents who have said their voices are not being heard in their respective school districts,” Gundrum said.

“Governor Evers doesn’t seem to care that parents are not being informed or are being misled about what is happening in the classrooms.”

Last year, parents in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against a school district over a policy that let students change their names and pronouns without parental consent.

Wisconsin state Sen. Alberta Darling, a Republican who co-authored the Parents’ Bill of Rights, said in a statement that the legislation amounted to “common-sense protections for every family” and would have given parents “clear cut rights” in the state’s statutes.

“Governor Evers seems to believe that government should have a bigger say than parents and that is flat-out wrong,” she said.

Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican who’s looking to oust Evers in this year’s gubernatorial election, said in a statement that Evers’s veto makes it “clear that he thinks education bureaucrats should have more of a say in a child’s education than their own parents.”

In an earlier interview on Fox News, Kleefisch said Wisconsin parents are mobilizing against what she characterized as a leftist agenda in the state’s school districts.

“Parents are furious. They are seeing how these out-of-touch leftists and school board members who have allied themselves with the far fringes of the Democrat party have taken over at school districts,” she said.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.