Catching up with Congresswoman Julia Letlow on education reform, school safety

Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 8:24 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - As debate over education plays out around the nation, Rep. Julia Letlow (R-5th Congressional District) has been at the forefront of the GOP-led effort to bring about certain reforms.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R.5, otherwise known as the ‘Parents Bill of Rights Act.’ It moves on to the upper chamber along party lines, and, according to the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said it will likely meet a “dead end.”

H.R. 5 attempts to add many requirements for public schools nationwide, an effort Letlow said is about transparency and not burdening teachers.

“You know I think it may have turned into something that it wasn’t supposed to be. It was really just about transparency and making sure that parents have the right to know what their children are being taught and that it would also promote a true partnership,” said Letlow. “When I talk to teachers I don’t know that I know of a teacher who doesn’t understand that when parents are involved, students succeed, and actually want more parental involvement.”

The bill would require schools to provide parents with a list of books and reading materials available in the school library.

Other mandates include publically posting curricula and alerting parents of violent activity on school grounds. It also creates restrictions around changing gender markers, pronouns and preferred names of minors without parental permission or allowing a child to change their sex-based accommodations, including locker rooms or bathrooms.

The legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 27, but Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), who is lead minority member on that committee, has said he is unsure if it will get a hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) serves as chairman on the committee and determines if the bill will be called up.

Letlow has also been a proponent of the Lower Energy Costs Act (H.R.1), which also passed along party lines out of the House last week. The measure seeks to make changes to President Joe Biden’s Administration’s climate policies.

The 208-page legislation hones in on prioritizing non-renewable energy production, like oil and gas, modifying permitting timelines and rolling back on restrictions around imports, exports and developing energy production sites on federal land.

The GOP calls the legislation an effort to restore energy independence, while Democrats bemoan it as making pollution permissible.

Letlow said H.R. 1 provides a “true partnership” with renewables.

“The United State does it best. We know that. We do an excellent job, and we’re headed that way. We are good stewards,” said Letlow. “So, other countries, you can’t rely on them to do the right thing when it comes to our environment when it comes to renewable energy. And I think you’ll find in H.R. 1, that yes, it’s a partnership we’re headed that way, we’re headed in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, outcry around the nation following the mass shooting at a Nashville area elementary school has once again thrust the issue of gun control and school safety back to the front of national attention.

In May 2022 following the mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas school that killed 19 children and two adults, Letlow spoke with KNOE in Monroe on the increased calls for gun control. At the time, she said she would not commit to any new gun control measures, including enhanced background checks or a ban on certain weapons.

Now, nearly a year later, Letlow once again did not commit to any gun control measures, instead pointing to an emphasis on bettering mental health. She said she has been approached by the father of a victim of the 2018 Parkland shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, who was proposing the Luke and Alex School Safety Act of 2021, aimed at bolstering school safety and increasing mental health resources.

“I think there are other ways we can work on this, look at the root as to why this is happening, but please know that I am dedicated to trying to find solutions,” said Letlow. “We just haven’t found one yet.”

Letlow said she wants to see more federal dollars go toward mental health to “stave it off on the front end,” going so far as to suggest possibly putting mental health professionals in each classroom. However, she emphasized that it will take Congress coming together to find real solutions.

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