In this Update:
OP-ED: We must listen to the voices of parents in Pennsylvania; not silence them
By Senator Doug Mastriano
A nationwide grassroots movement appeared to spring up seemingly out of nowhere in early 2021. A grassroots movement that hasn’t been seen since the days of the tea party in 2010.
This grassroots movement is unique in its intentions and motivations. The movement isn’t being driven by outrage about tax policies, healthcare, or federal government spending. Instead, it has emerged because of the mismanagement and indoctrination that is affecting America’s most precious future resource: our youth.
The movement is also unique in who’s leading the charge. The leaders of this movement are not politicians, corporate interests, or media personalities. It’s led by parents taking time out of their busy schedules to advocate for their families and the future of our nation. Particularly, mothers (many of whom traditionally stayed away from politics) are emerging as a significant force in holding their local school districts accountable. It has been inspiring to say the least.
The seeds were planted in the fall of 2020. Parents around our nation were frustrated at education officials dragging their feet to reopen school for in person learning. Parents observed the negative effects on their children resulting from remote learning. Working-class parents had difficulties in ensuring supervision as they returned to in person jobs. By then, the science was clear that the risk of serious COVID-19 complications in children was and remains miniscule.
Powerful teacher unions around the nation lobbied state and federal officials to delay a return to in person instruction. Parents had enough and began to speak out through op-eds and social media.
Also in 2020 was the increasing prevalence of Critical Race Theory (CRT). The theory claims supremacy is pervasive in in all facets of American society and that white students play a part in upholding that supremacy. It is a theory that trains young minds to hate their country and teaches racist views about fellow classmates. Under the guise of equity, teachers and administrators began to incorporate CRT into their curriculum and required readings.
Parents shared shocking testimonials on social media of what their children were being subjected to. These parents began to organize at local school board meetings to ask questions and voice their displeasure.
Next, came the debate over children being required to wear masks in school. Many parents questioned the science and data providing evidence of masks limiting transmission in a school setting. Breathing problems, increased occurrence of headaches, and fatigue are just some of the effects parents observed in children from all day mask wearing during last school year. Some parents noticed a drop in academic performance.
These parents once again utilized social media to voice their opposition and attended school board meetings to advocate for optional mask wearing. It had an effect as 90% of schools in Pennsylvania opted to make mask wearing optional. This was later met with a statewide mandate from the Governor after local officials and parents made a decision that his administration did not like.
The parental rights movement has grown nationwide. Grassroots groups such as “Moms for Liberty” are emerging in almost every county in Pennsylvania. This fall, more concerned parents than ever are running for office to have a voice on their local school board. Many of whom have never been involved in politics until this moment.
While the emergence of the parental rights movement is encouraging for those who champion citizen advocacy and welcome parents taking an active interest in improving our schools, the powers that be view this movement as a threat to the status quo. Unified parents projecting a strong voice have captured the attention of those in the highest levels of government.
The National School Boards Association sent a letter to the White House requesting the full force of federal law enforcement to stop “threats and acts of violence” from parents and utilize domestic terrorism laws to intimidate parents.
It’s worth noting that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has disavowed the letter stating they were “never consulted prior to the letter being sent by the National School Boards Association.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to the letter with a memo in which he announced that the Justice Department would expand its activity to establish a task force comprised of representatives from multiple departments and bureaus to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute parents who are out of order.
While isolated acts of violence and direct threats should be investigated appropriately, AG Garland has gone too far with these attempts at intimidation.
Concerned parents are not domestic terrorists and do not deserve the wrath of the Federal law enforcement. These citizens are exercising the same rights that Americans have always exercised to create change and give voice to the voiceless.
Parents gather information and do their utmost to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of their child. They know the children’s strengths and weaknesses best and love their kids more than any bureaucrat or elected official does. We should welcome their increased interest in school board affairs; not investigate or intimidate them.
Limiting the Influence of Lobbyists and Political Consultants
This week, Senate Republicans introduced a package of bills that would subject lobbyists and political consultants to new transparency and ethical standards to limit their level of influence in state government.
Senate Bill 801, sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), would require lobbyists to register any clients seeking state financial assistance or grants and prohibit kick-backs and inducements for referrals or performance bonuses for a successful application for taxpayer-funded grants.
Senate Bill 802, sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), would prohibit any state entity from hiring an outside lobbyist or political consultant to lobby any branch of government. The bill would also prohibit former lobbyists who become employees of the General Assembly from being lobbied by their previous colleagues for one year after separation from employment. This would prevent the revolving door of individuals leaving a lobbying firm to join the legislature and immediately being influenced by their former coworkers.
Senate Bill 803, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), would prevent lobbyists from also being registered as political consultants and would prohibit a political consultant from lobbying a state official who was a client for the remainder of the term for which consulting services were provided.
Senate Bill 804, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), would require all registered lobbyists to complete mandatory annual ethics training developed by the Department of State.
PennDOT Invites Pennsylvanians to Share Feedback
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is inviting the public to share construction and maintenance services feedback via an online survey through Oct. 26.
The 20-question survey asks how they receive PennDOT roadway information and how often PennDOT meets or exceeds expectations in construction and maintenance activities.
Respondents are also asked about experiences with reporting concerns to the department, and whether or how they use the state’s 511PA traveler information services, which provide information about the condition of more than 40,000 roadway miles in Pennsylvania online at www.511pa.com.
Discussing How to Best Protect PA Communities
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hosted a public hearing focusing on Senate Bill 698, which would allow counties to create countywide public safety authorities for firefighting and/or emergency medical services (EMS). Rather than replacing volunteer and career fire and EMS companies, authorities would exist to support them and their work.
The speaking panels included people representing local government, fire and EMS. They shared varying opinions about how to most effectively preserve access to life-saving care for all Pennsylvanians.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to Open Oct. 18
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which promotes funding for mitigation measures that reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property for future disasters, will open on Monday, Oct. 18.
State agencies, federally recognized tribes, local governments/communities and private nonprofit organizations are eligible to develop mitigation project sub-applications to submit to their state, territory or tribal government. States, territories and tribes are then responsible for selecting the sub-applications that align with their mitigation priorities and submit them in an application to FEMA.
FEMA will conduct a final eligibility review of all sub-applications to ensure compliance with federal regulations.
Click here for more information.
Celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month
About one in 700 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome each year – or about 6,000.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month serves to remind us that people with Down syndrome can live full, rich lives. A loving, stimulating home environment and the right health care enable people with Down syndrome to excel and enlighten.