House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks at the US Capitol in Washington on March 1, 2023.
Washington CNN  — 

House Republicans have introduced a bill aimed at increasing so-called parental rights in the classroom, continuing to emphasize an issue that has emerged as a central party platform.

Among other things, H.R. 5, also known as the “Parents Bill of Rights Act,” would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require schools to provide parents with a list of books and reading materials available in the school library as well as posting curriculum publicly.

The proposed legislation also affirms parents’ rights to address school boards and receive information about violent activity in their child’s school.

For Republicans, parental rights in education emerged as a significant political issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, when school closures, along with mask and vaccine mandates, upended family routines and renewed scrutiny over school leadership.

But the issue really took off for Republicans after Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election following a campaign that placed “parents’ rights” at its center.

In some states, such as Texas, Florida and Iowa, parental permission is now needed to discuss certain topics with students. Other states, such as Georgia, have put parents and school communities in charge of vetting books their children could encounter at school for signs of race-related or sexual themes, appealing to conservatives who have voiced concerns about “radical” literature.

“I think the pandemic brought to light for a lot of us moms and dads, for the first time ever, we sat down and we saw what our children were being taught through the virtual classroom. And when we saw that, so many of us were disheartened with what we were viewing – and so then we did the right thing, right? We went to our school boards and voiced our displeasure, but we were turned away,” Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, who sponsored the House legislation, said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The bill has 73 GOP co-sponsors, she said.

Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate last Congress by GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, but it failed to be brought up for a vote.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy championed the new bill, calling it “milestone” legislation, though it faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-led Senate.

The proposed measure was swiftly denounced by Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, who said McCarthy is trying to stoke racial and social division.

“Parents and voters agree that elected leaders should be focused on getting students the individualized support they need, keeping guns out of schools, and addressing educator shortages. But sadly, McCarthy would rather empower politicians who want to ban books and drive passionate educators out of the profession, instead of doing what is right for our students and public schools. Students, parents, and educators deserve better,” Pringle said in a statement.