Rep. Lee Blasts Republicans’ War on Education: ‘If They Don’t Like What You’re Reading, They’ll Do Everything in Their Power to Stop You.’

Jan 31, 2024
Press

**For IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

Contact: Emilia.Rowland@mail.house.gov – 330.212.2065

Rep. Lee Blasts Republicans’ War on Education: ‘If They Don’t Like What You’re Reading, They’ll Do Everything in Their Power to Stop You.’

(Pittsburgh, PA) – In today’s Subcommittee on Health and Financial Services political stunt hearing titled ““America’s Report Card: Oversight of K-12 Public Education,” Rep. Summer Lee called out Republicans’ efforts to ban books, censor teachers, bully LGBTQ+ kids, and erase Black history. Lee also pointed out Republicans’ selective efforts to prioritize “parental rights,” citing that an NPR poll found that 76% of parents were happy with their kids’ schools and what they were taught.

Congresswoman Lee’s Remarks on Republicans’ War on Education:

Watch here

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

Congresswoman Lee’s Remarks on Republicans’ War on Education.

My Republican colleagues don’t want the parents in their districts to know that they’ve denied their children resources – they don’t want folks to know that they’re diverting your hard-earned tax dollars away from our schools and into the pockets of their donors.  

They’re desperate for distractions as they defund our classrooms and deprive our teachers, that they’re banning books, censoring teachers, bullying LGBTQ+ kids, erasing Black history in an attempt to turn us against our schools.  

If Republicans don’t like what you have to say, they’ll do everything in their power to prevent you from saying it. If they don’t like what you’re reading, they’ll do everything to stop you from reading it. Even if it’s literally just talking about the history of this country – or exercising your free speech. Because heaven forbid someone gets uncomfortable during a lesson on American chattel enslavement. Or feels seen reading about someone like them. Or learns about white supremacy reading the 1619 Project or the diary of Anne Frank.  

I ask unanimous consent to enter this article from NPR entitled, “The education culture war is raging. But for most parents, it’s background noise” into the record. 

Republicans are claiming it’s about parents’ right to be involved in their kid’s classes… which parents?  

In this national poll, NPR found that by wide margins—and regardless of their politics— 76% of parents were happy with their kid’s schools and what they’re taught.  

Just 18% of parents weren’t happy with the way gender and sexuality was taught, 19% say the same about race and racism; and 14% feel that way about U.S. history. 

These numbers show what’s really happening: teachers are being forced to bow to a very vocal minority. At the expense of the overwhelming majority of parents, teachers, and most importantly ALL our students. 

And while we’re so focused on this small group, we’re ignoring real barriers for marginalized students including language barriers, access to technology and tutoring, and a lack of funding for underserved schools. It’s much easier to make teachers a political punching bag then to invest in our communities. Even though that investment works – I’ve seen it firsthand in the schools in my District. During the pandemic and we were all stuck at home, many kids were left without reliable internet. In Pittsburgh, our local universities, Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh, partnered with nonprofits and used federal grant money to connect over 600 families to the internet. 

CMU also set up dedicated servers with free courses and classes for students to access. Including virtual labs and coding courses.  

Ms. Forte, do you think having internet access or not using gender-neutral pronouns is more important to a kid’s education? 

This learning gap is really more of a practice gap. Our young people need more tools to get excited about learning.  

In Pittsburgh, CMU has started programs to use phone apps and augmented reality to better engage young students. They also expanded tutoring for low-income families backed by AI to make the tutors more effective. All funded through federal grants.  

Ms. Forte, what do you think is better for students, creating new technology for them to learn with or removing books from classroom libraries unless they’ve been approved by every parent? 

But my Republican colleagues would much rather beat up on teachers and blame them for everything when we’re the ones holding the purse strings.  

Without investing in our marginalized communities, we’re never going to see improvement. We’ve got this huge gap in STEM when it comes to Black and brown people and women. This hearing could’ve focused on how to get young people excited about science and math and how to better reach underserved schools but instead, we’re stuck listening to the same broken record.  

I’ve seen my community rally around its young people and I’m proud of the work that’s been done so far but we can always do more. We should be doing everything we can to support our public schools, our teachers, and our kids.    

Cutting funding, banning books, and censoring curriculum is not the answer.  

I yield back. 


Since taking office in January, Lee, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and Space, Science and Technology Committee, has delivered historic levels of federal investment totaling over $1 Billion brought back to Western PA, including over $200 million for infrastructure, over $50 million for affordable transit, and over $500 million to keep clean energy manufacturing at home in Pennsylvania. These investments will help improve Western Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and transit, ensure cleaner air and drinking water, lower housing costs, fund research institutions, fuel clean manufacturing, fund STEM innovation and entrepreneurship, boost workforce development, and create thousands of good paying union jobs.  Lee and her team have also delivered casework and constituent services to over 1,600 constituents with issues ranging from helping our seniors and disabled community access Medicare and social security to helping folks secure housing and helping families with immigration support and passports.

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