RELEASE: Schmidt calls on Kansas Legislature to send Parents Bill of Rights to his desk in first 100 days

Kelly vetoed the bill, called it “the worst thing we can possibly be doing”

WICHITA – (September 16, 2022) – Flanked by three Kansas Legislators who are former teachers, Kansas Attorney General and Republican Nominee for Governor Derek Schmidt today called on the Kansas Legislature to send the Parents Bill of Rights to his desk for signature in the first 100 days after he is sworn in as governor in January. 

“Laura Kelly and the teachers unions that bankroll her campaigns believe that they are in charge of schools,” Schmidt said. “They are not. Our public schools function at the highest level only when parents are deeply involved in their children’s education and when they work in tandem with a good teacher. That’s why today, I am calling on the Kansas Legislature, within the first 100 days I’m in office, to send me a Parents Bill of Rights.”

In April, Kelly vetoed the Parents Bill of Rights after calling it “the worst thing we can possibly be doing” in unscripted remarks to the press. In her written veto statement, Kelly claimed she looked forward to “working with the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion on a bill that gives parents a seat at the table…” but has made no such effort.

The bill Kelly vetoed and that Schmidt will sign states parents have the right to direct the education, upbringing, care, and mental health of their child and enumerates rights reserved in state law for parents with respect to their child. 

“Parents and schools should be partners in educating our children,” Kansas House K-12 Budget Chairwoman Kristey Williams said. “That partnership has been tested and frayed. Let’s restore trust by improving transparency and encouraging cooperation. Let’s work together as a community and a state to affirm parents’ rights, empower students, and bridge gaps of trust and communication between parents and schools.”

Recently, Kelly said at both the Kansas Chamber Conversations forum and at State Fair debate that she makes “no apologies” for locking kids out of school; the same week, several pro-lockdown teachers’ unions endorsed her reelection campaign.

After being the first governor in America to lock kids out of schools for the remaining school year in March 2020, and despite experts cautioning against it, Kelly followed teachers’ union marching orders and attempted to extend her statewide school lockdowns into a second academic year. Thankfully, she was blocked by the Kansas State Board of Education. Board members rebuked Kelly’s one-size-fits-all solution as “problematic” and said Kelly should be “listening to the doctors, not the politicians” when making decisions about reopening. Kelly later tried to keep extending statewide mask mandates, including in schools, until the Legislature stopped her. 

“Parents in my district suffered financial devastation when they were unable to work when they could not find childcare,” Kansas Representative Susan Estes said of Kelly’s lockdowns. “They watched their children suffer academic losses. They felt abandoned and voiceless. The Parents’ Bill of Rights acknowledges that parents are the primary decision maker in a child’s life and ensures they have a seat at the table and a full plate of information from which to make the best decisions for their child.”

In the wake of Kelly’s school closures, student achievement and mental health outcomes have suffered. More than 34 percent of Kansas students are testing at the lowest possible level in math and 30 percent in reading. A shocking 32 percent of Kansas teens responded they have seriously considered suicide, a record-high number and nearly 40 percent increase since 2015.

“Nothing is more important than our kids, and we need to put kids and parents first,” Schmidt said. “We must constitutionally fund our schools. But fully funding schools doesn’t work if you lock the students out of them. It doesn’t work if you lock the parents out of them either.”

Despite Kelly calling herself the “education governor,” about 15,000 students have left public schools since 2019 after years of static enrollment, and Kansas faces its worst teacher shortage in state history.

“Parents as their children’s first and most important teachers is a universally held belief,” Kansas Senate Education Vice Chairwoman Renee Erickson said. “That is the foundation for the Parents Bill of Rights. If school officials truly value transparency, they should embrace parental involvement in every aspect of their child’s education.” 

In addition to signing the Parents Bill of Rights into law in his first 100 days, Schmidt has committed to constitutionally fund schools and keep students in the classroom. He has also proposed a comprehensive plan to address school safety that includes providing more mental-health professionals for schools by continuing to expand the existing Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) program until it is available to all school districts.

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