Optimism and Concern on the Future of Parents’ Bill of Rights Legislation
For those unfamiliar with it, a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” is a law that helps to ensure parents have transparent access to their children’s instruction, spending, and performance materials, and ultimately helps to secure the rights of parents to have the primary say in how their children are educated. Paired with enhanced school choice, a Parents’ Bill of Rights gives parents the ammunition to judge how the government is educating their kids—and the ability to adjust their educational plans and options accordingly.
The good news in Missouri is that we’ve seen legislative progress toward both goals this year, especially with the Parents’ Bill of Rights. On Wednesday, news came from the Missouri Legislature that Senate Bill (SB) 4 had passed out of committee. As our readers may know, SB 4 represents the most likely vehicle for a Parents’ Bill of Rights to pass into law, so its (relatively) expeditious approval in the Senate and in a House committee is heartening.
What’s less heartening is that the House added a Committee Substitute to the bill, which changes its contents and, thus, would require another vote from the Senate if it passes on the House floor, which it seems likely to do. Why is the substitute a problem? Because if the bill survived unamended, the Senate would not have to see the bill again; given the dysfunction in the upper chamber this year, there’s no telling whether the Senate would take up SB 4 a second time with the House’s amended language. Factor in threats from the House that it may stop considering Senate bills altogether, and yeah, the circumstances here aren’t great.
Unless the House knows the Senate can and will pass its revised SB 4 late in the session, I hope the House will consider removing the Committee Substitute, as it did with its special session bill last year, and pass it as drafted by the Senate. I appreciate the inside-baseball reason for rejecting Senate bills in an environment when the Senate is an AWOL partner in policymaking, but that doesn’t change that SB 4 achieves one of the core objectives the House had set out at the beginning of the session: putting parents back in charge of their kids’ education. Four weeks remain between now and the end of this year’s legislative work; we’ll keep you posted if SB 4 makes it across the finish line.