The U.S. Department of Education on Monday announced it had “immediately and permanently” disbanded its newly formed National Parents and Families Engagement Council — just months after a group of conservative activists filed a lawsuit against the department claiming the council lacked “balanced” perspectives. The lawsuit, filed in July, has now been dropped.
The Education Department formed the council in June, aiming “to facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and caregivers,” according to an announcement issued by the agency then.
More pressure mounted against the Education Department over its council last week after five Republican U.S. senators sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona agreeing with points made in the lawsuit.
“If this Council continues to exist, I seek to ensure you will establish objectivity and nominate members who serve its stated purpose of ‘identify[ing] constructive ways to help families engage at the local level,’” the letter said. “The uniformly partisan members of the Council demonstrate this administration’s commitment to putting the interest of unions, teachers, non-education associations, and the radical left above students and parents.”
Family engagement has been viewed by some education leaders as a tool to heal community divisions that have arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic sparked contentious debates around health and safety measures. On top of that, ongoing debates around critical race theory and LGBTQ students’ rights have deepened this divide in many communities.
Three conservative organizations — America First Legal Foundation, Fight for Schools and Families, and Parents Defending Education — targeted the Education Department in the lawsuit, alleging the agency violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act when it created the council. That law requires an advisory committee’s membership to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee.”
Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools and Families and a senior advisor at America First Legal Foundation, was a senior official in former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice.
The lawsuit claims nearly 80% of the leaders of the organizations appointed to the National Parents and Families Engagement Council donated to President Joe Biden or other Democrats.
The organizations represented on the council include The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Fathers Incorporated, Generations United, Girls Inc., League of United Latin American Citizens, Mocha Moms, National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, National Action Network, National Military Family Association, National Parent Teacher Association, National Parents Union, The National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment, United Parent Leaders Action Network, and UnidosUS.