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Parents’ rights groups are suing the Biden administration over the Department of Education’s creation of a new parent council, which the groups say is politically biased and violates federal law.
Fight for Schools, Parents Defending Education, and America First Legal filed a joint federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Department of Education, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and the department’s National Parent and Family Engagement Council, which was created last month as a way to find “constructive ways to help families engage at the local level,” the department announced on June 14.
The council was launched to “facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and carers”, according to the Department for Education, after more than two years of protests by parents demanding more control over the their children’s education amid school board decisions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Groups suing the Biden administration say the newly created council violates several provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that require balance and transparency.
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The FACA requires that federal advisory committees have a “fairly balanced composition in terms of viewpoints represented and functions to be performed by the advisory committee.”
The groups claim in their lawsuit that council members are allies of the Biden administration and that nearly 80% of their leaders have donated to Biden or other Democrats.
“Defendant Cardona selected members who are agreeable, not balanced,” the lawsuit states.
The groups say that the leaders of 11 of the 14 organizations selected for the committee have made donations to President Biden, Democratic lawmakers, Democratic fundraisers or other Democratic-affiliated associations or entities, and that none of the leaders the highest-ranking members of the organization donated to Republican or right-wing organizations.
Organizations selected for the council include Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and several pro-Black Lives Matter groups, including Mocha Moms Inc., United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN) and UnidosUS.
“To have a fair balance of viewpoints and competent deliberation of student needs, there must be fairly equal representation from both sides of the political spectrum,” the lawsuit states. “That’s not the case here, because the Council is made up of groups that already support this administration.”
The groups claim that the board is also violating a FACA provision that requires “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, schedules, working papers, drafts, studies, agendas, or other documents that have been made available or prepared for or by” the advisory committee must be made available to “public inspection”.
The groups point to two Cardona press releases about the council, one from June 14 that said the council would meet in “the coming weeks”, and another press release on the same day that said “the council meet to discuss how the children are recovering.” , the different ways schools provide academic, mental health and social and emotional support, and how families can best engage constructively with schools.”
The groups claim the board violates the FACA’s non-discretionary transparency and public access requirements by meeting apparently “without public notice; without making such meetings open to the public; and without notice in the Federal Register.”
“Plaintiffs only learned that the Board had met after the DOE indicated that meetings had taken place in its second press release,” the lawsuit states. “Regardless of the fact that the Board has already met, the DOE’s equivocation shows the flaw in the defendants’ disclosure of information to the public, in violation of FACA.”
The lawsuit claims the council is causing harm to the suing groups because they now have to deploy more resources to investigate the council’s operations.
The groups are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to declare the council in violation of FACA and to permanently bar the council from meeting or conducting official business. They also ask the court to permanently prohibit the Department of Education, Cardona, and the council from “submitting, accepting, publishing, employing, or relying on any report or recommendation produced by the council for any official purpose.” “.
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Parents Defending Education president Nicole Neily said in a statement to Fox News Digital that the board’s apparent imbalance was part of a pattern under the Biden administration.
“The creation of this council of endorsement shows that the Biden administration is desperately trying to whitewash its blatant disregard for American parents by pretending to finally listen to families’ concerns,” she said. “Unfortunately, they have simply shown that they only really want to listen to the opinions of their political allies and not the vast majority of average parents – which has become a pattern and a practice for this group of ideologically driven activists. “
Fight for Schools executive director Ian Prior said the council was nothing more than a ‘public relations mirage’ following last year’s controversy over the administration’s treatment Biden to public school parents.
“Over the past year, the Biden administration has armed the federal government against parents who peacefully and passionately exercise their right to speak at school board meetings and be involved in their children’s education. “Prior said. “This new ‘parents’ council’ is nothing more than a public relations mirage, behind which lies the same cabal of activist groups that have created the very issues parents have been working to solve at the grassroots level. We We’re not fooled and neither will we be the parents who wake up every day ready to fight for their children.”
Biden’s Justice Department faced a backlash last October after issuing a memo ordering the FBI and U.S. prosecutors’ offices to investigate “threats of violence” at school board meetings in a bid to combat against what he called a “worrying trend” of harassment of school officials.
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The memo relied on a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that called for federal action to treat hostilities against school boards as possible acts of “domestic terrorism” and suggested using the Patriot Act against parents.