Pierce County senator’s proposal would recognize fundamental right of parents, guardians to raise their children and determine what’s best for their education
On Wednesday, state Sen. Jim McCune introduced legislation that would recognize the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. The “Parents Bill of Rights” bill is one of a trio of measures aimed at restoring the proper authority of parents in raising their children.
“Parents know what is best for their children, and the state needs to recognize the parent’s right to play the primary role in determining education policy, school curricula and other fundamental decisions about the care and development of their children,” said McCune, R-Graham.
Senate Bill 5558 would have the Legislature recognize “parents are the best protectors of their children and have the natural right and duty to care for them. …The Legislature intends to codify parents and guardians’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children to help protect this right from governmental encroachment on parental authority in public schools.”
Under the bill, this “fundamental right” would be extended to the parental choice regarding the type of education their child will receive, and prevent state interference with that choice unless it can show a narrowly tailored “compelling governmental interest.”
The bill specifically makes clear that it should not be construed to extend to decisions that would result in an end-of-life decision.
“Providing for K-12 education is the paramount duty of the state, but in most cases, the education of a child is the primary concern of that child’s parents,” said McCune. “Parents know what is best for their children, and the state needs to recognize the parent’s right to play the primary role in determining education policy and school curricula, as well as the vast majority of health care decisions.”
McCune also has two bills besides SB 5558 that would tackle specific issues that are of concern to parents.
Senate Bill 5008, also known as the Education Transparency Act, would require each school district to post on its website all core instructional materials used within its curricula within 14 days of adoption by the school district board of directors. McCune noted most schools use an online portal to access grades, and says this bill would make a similar system available to parents and legal guardians to access and review all classroom materials. If approved, the bill would also allow a superior court judge to level a civil penalty of $500 for each violation by a school district or a school building.
Senate Bill 5009 is a response to Washington’s voter-approved, but controversial comprehensive sex-education program. It would require parental or legal guardian approval before a child participates in comprehensive sexual health education. The current system requires parents to opt-out of having their child participate.
McCune said this legislation, if approved, will respect the substantial number of parents genuinely concerned about controversial sexual materials being forced on their young children.
“The best way to address division and controversy and reduce the level of tension and animosity is to avoid forcing a one-size-fit-all solution on every student and parent,” said McCune. “The best solution is to have parents make informed decisions about what is best for their children, and then respect their decisions. This packet of legislation requires that parents make the call, and ensures they have access to all curriculum materials and resources necessary to guarantee they can see what their children are being taught. The more information people have, the better choices they can make.”
The three McCune bills are before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, which must advance the measures by Feb. 17 for them to be considered during the 2023 legislative session.
McCune is also a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5024, which would require more opportunity for parental and public observation and participation in school board meetings. That bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on Feb. 1.