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Parents' bill of rights may be on 2025 ballot in Washington

Most of the provisions appear to be consistent with existing law,” says Superintendent’s office

An alliance of conservative groups on Tuesday submitted nearly 425,000 signatures for an initiative to guarantee parents access to materials their children are taught in K-12 classrooms and information about medical services public schools provide.

The proposed ballot measure, Initiative 2081, would codify a “parents’ bill of rights” on matters ranging from reviewing textbooks and curriculum to obtaining medical records to being able to opt their child out of assignments involving questions about a child’s sexual experiences or their family’s religious beliefs.

Initiative supporters delivered boxes of petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office in Tumwater at 1:30 p.m. They said they were turning in 423,399 signatures.

“This initiative is nothing anyone would have believed was controversial even a few years ago,” said hedge fund manager Brian Heywood, founder of Let’s Go Washington and chief financier of the signature-gathering effort.

“Parents are the primary stakeholder in raising children,” he said in a statement. “The overwhelming number of signatures from across the political spectrum shows that everyone just wants to get back to normal.”

State Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen, who also chairs the Washington State Republican Party, is the prime sponsor of this initiative and five others circulated this year by Let’s Go Washington, Restore Washington and other conservative political groups.

In November, they turned in 418,399 signatures for Initiative 2117 to repeal the Climate Commitment Act. Petitions for a third measure dealing with vehicle pursuits by police are scheduled for delivery Thursday, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Collectively these measures are part of a broad Republican-driven strategy to push back on significant social, fiscal and environmental policies approved by Democratic legislators and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee over the objections of many GOP lawmakers.

Need or distraction?

Initiative 2081 focuses on public schools which have increasingly been a battleground in Washington and across the nation on issues of curricula related to sexual health and race and policies on covid vaccinations and gender identity.

The measure would require parents to be able to review educational materials and receive copies of academic and medical records for free. It also says parents should “receive written notice and the option to opt their child out” of surveys, assignments, questionnaires, and other activities in which questions are asked about their child’s “sexual experiences or attractions” or their family religion or political affiliations.

Another provision calls for parents to be notified if their child receives any medications or medical care that could result in a financial impact.

Officials with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are studying the measure to see how it aligns with current Washington law.

“Most of the provisions appear to be consistent with existing law,” said OSPI spokeswoman Katy Payne. “We are reviewing it in further detail to determine if the initiative conflicts with any existing civil rights protections or Human Rights Commission determinations.”

Mark Gardner, a high school teacher in the Camas School District, said the premise of ensuring parents have a voice isn’t problematic. The reality, he said, is most of what is sought exists now through state law or school district policies.

“To me this feels like a distraction from our greater needs,” he said. State lawmakers should look to boost funding for hiring support staff and paraeducators, for example, because these professionals “would really serve our kids,” he said.

To be certified, Initiative 2081 petitions must contain the signatures of at least 324,516 registered voters. State election officials recommend initiative sponsors submit at least 405,000 signatures to account for any found to be invalid.

The process of certifying valid signatures will begin after the Dec. 29 deadline for filing initiatives to the Legislature.

Because it is an initiative to the Legislature, if it has the requisite number of signatures it will first be sent to lawmakers who can adopt it as written in the 2024 session. They also can reject or refuse to act on it, in which case it will go on the November 2024 ballot.

Lawmakers can approve an alternative measure to be placed on the ballot alongside the initiative if they want, as well.

 

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