One positive emerging out of the politicization of classrooms is the awakening of parents to their rights and responsibilities in educating their children. Truthfully, in many families, too much instruction has been outsourced to the state without much thought. Pandemic lockdowns changed all that. Learning loss altered the status quo trajectory. Further evidence of politicized classroom indoctrination propelled calls for change. A bill of rights for parents is the first step towards empowerment against an educational system that might not always have a student’s best interest in mind.

The John Locke Foundation recently released its version of a Parents’ Bill of Rights for North Carolina. The document affirms five truths and rights, placing the family at the center. Contrary to the worldview of many school administrators and teachers’ unions, this is essential because families are the moral fountains of society. A healthy culture and civilization flow out of the strength of the nuclear family. Politicized agendas like critical race theory and gender ideology not only disrupt family life but may completely undermine the values parents desire to instill in their children.

“Many parents feel increasingly powerless over what their children are being exposed to in the classroom. These feelings have been exacerbated by an increasingly radicalized curriculum and pandemic-era policies, such as the stopping or delaying of in-person school board meetings,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of Locke’s Center for Effective Education. Stoops went on to assert that parents must be empowered in the educational decision-making process and that schools must be more transparent.

The truth is public education is ripe for reform. The pandemic exposed this to the public unlike anything else. Unfortunately, a lot of distrust has been sewn from politicians claiming that certain unpopular agendas on race or sex weren’t being taught in schools only to be later proven wrong.

Additionally, pushback against woke ideologies has surged in the last couple of years, and education is becoming a pivotal issue at the ballot box. Virginia proved to be ground zero, especially when then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Given the politicization of so many schools and our increasingly pluralistic society, a bill of rights is the basic starting point for educational reform. One of the great strengths of the document put forward by Locke is the right to grant parents power over how and where their child is educated. A statewide funding system where dollars follow the child is long overdue in North Carolina, particularly given that nearly a quarter of all K-12 students already opt out of traditional public schools. Families have different needs, so education should be more than a bureaucratic one-size-fits-all model that ignores deeper learning components like spiritual formation or even tainting America’s rich heritage for the sake of indoctrination.

Most parents don’t want a politicized education. Most parents are not interested in merely strengthening a system that protects the bureaucratic status quo at the expense of students.

If the over-abiding interest is truly student achievement, at some point academic achievement measurements would have shown improvement. Instead, most measurements show decline or stagnant data. Ultimately, keeping children trapped in specific schools for the benefit of unions or well-paid administrators makes little sense unless the goal is a political one centered around control and power. Lawmakers should listen to the parents across North Carolina already voting with their feet — and they should fully implement a school-choice system that severs education from the control of politicized special interests.

Americans aren’t likely to unite politically or culturally again for some time; universal choice is the only fair option for our growing cultural and political diversity.

Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.