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House Passes Parental Rights Bill
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House Passes Parental Rights Bill

Plus: A March Madness update after an exciting weekend of games. 🏀☘️

Happy Monday! We’d like to apologize for the panic we sparked on Friday with our joke about ceasing publication of The Morning Dispatch—and thank those of you who believe in us enough to think we could actually be leaving TMD to join the New York Jets’ offensive line.

The outpouring of shocked and anguished notes we received—in the comments, via email, on Twitter—made us feel like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn attending their own funeral service. We’re not going anywhere!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday the country is planning to move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. Aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons are already in the country and facilities for holding the weapons will be completed this summer, Putin said, but he provided no timeline for the actual transfer of the weapons. “We have not seen any indication that he’s made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around,” said John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesperson. “We’ve seen nothing that would cause us to change our deterrent posture.”
  • Honduras established diplomatic relations with China over the weekend, forcing it to embrace the Chinese Communist Party’s One-China policy and sever its ties with Taiwan. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and as of this date, the Honduran Government has informed Taiwan about the severance of diplomatic relations,” the Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement, while Taiwan’s foreign minister claimed Honduras had recently sought billions in foreign aid from the island. Following the move, just 13 countries now formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.
  • Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark announced plans last week to jointly operate their air forces—approximately 250 fighter jets—as one fleet. “The ultimate goal is to be able to operate seamlessly together as one force by developing a Nordic concept for joint air operations based on already known NATO methodology,” Denmark’s Defense Command said in a statement. Norway and Denmark are both NATO members and Finland is expected to officially join the alliance in the coming weeks, while Sweden’s bid to join is still being held up by resistance from Turkey and Hungary.
  • Large-scale protests broke out across Israel on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired the country’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for opposing his government’s judicial overhaul plan. Citing the national security threat posed by the “growing rift in our society,” Gallant on Saturday had called on the government to “halt” the reforms for several weeks. Netanyahu was reportedly poised to suspend the overhaul on Monday amid the demonstrations and a planned general strike, but faced resistance from far-right members of the Israeli parliament’s governing coalition.
  • President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on Sunday in the aftermath of deadly tornadoes in Mississippi overnight Friday that killed at least 26 people and injured dozens more. The towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork sustained significant damage, with the long path of the tornadoes—collectively 170 miles—making them particularly destructive.
  • At least 29 African migrants died this weekend after two boats sank while attempting to make the journey from Tunisia to Italy. Tunisia has become a hub for migrants trying to reach Europe in recent years, but it’s a perilous journey: Five additional boats carrying migrants have sunk over the last week, killing at least seven people—including children—and leaving 67 missing.
  • An envelope containing a suspicious white powder arrived  on Friday at the office of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney investigating Donald Trump over alleged hush-money payments to an adult film star. Although the material was later deemed non-hazardous, a law enforcement source told Fox News the envelope contained a note that read “Alvin – I’ll kill you.” On Friday afternoon, Trump deleted a Truth Social post that included a split-screen image: him holding a baseball bat on one side, and Bragg’s face on the other. Pressed by NBC News on Sunday, Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina said he was not the former president’s “social media consultant” and admitted the post was “ill-advised.”
  • Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois on Sunday endorsed Paul Vallas in Chicago’s mayoral race, citing his “focus on safer neighborhoods, improved schools, and economic growth.” Vallas, a former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, will face off against Brandon Johnson, a Cook County Board member, in a runoff election on April 4.
  • DirecTV and Newsmax reached an agreement last week for the satellite television company to carry Newsmax in its content packages, resolving a months-long dispute that Newsmax previously characterized as “political discrimination” but the company’s CEO Chris Ruddy admitted Friday was “always based on financial considerations.” 

Republicans Bring ‘Parental Rights’ Front and Center

Students in a classroom. (Via Getty Images)
Students in a classroom. (Via Getty Images)

In 2022, legislators in Utah passed a law banning “pornographic or indecent” content in schools. Parents have since used it to challenge books they consider inappropriate, including ones touching on controversial racial, sexual, and gendered themes. Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir, Gender Queer, is a frequent target.

But late last year, one Utah parent proposed a new candidate for removal. “Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation,” the parent wrote, listing the book’s supposed content. “It’s pornographic by our new definition.”

The text in question? The Bible, of course.

Utah’s law is just one of many such statutes passed since 2021 in an effort to provide parents with more knowledge of—and control over—what’s going on inside their children’s schools. In the name of what’s become known as “parental rights,” conservative-led states across the country are advancing legislation placing restrictions on how teachers can discuss hot-button issues and what materials they can cover. On Friday, House Republicans took this effort national, voting 213-208 to advance the “Parents Bill of Rights Act” over Democratic objections. The legislation—which mirrors many of these state initiatives—has no chance of becoming law given the makeup of the Senate and who’s in the White House, but it provides a good look into an issue that’s likely to drive conversation on the right for years to come.

The idea of parents playing an integral role in their children’s education is nothing new, of course, but this latest Republican push began during the pandemic, when fights over in-person learning, masking, and curriculum sparked engagement in growing parents groups. Moms for Liberty, for example, was founded in Florida in 2021 and now boasts more than 200 chapters nationwide and some serious political sway. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin rode to victory in 2021 with his “parents matter” slogan—and his opponent’s gaffe insinuating the opposite—and the movement hasn’t slowed down despite Republicans’ disappointing midterm results. By late 2022, 25 states had passed a combined 64 laws over the previous three years tackling issues from transgender students’ participation in sports to discussions of race and sexuality in classrooms, according to a Washington Post analysis.

That push has continued into 2023, as many states weigh bills requiring schools to warn parents about more types of content and give them opportunities to opt their children out of lessons. Last week, for example, GOP West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill requiring public schools to post curricula online at the beginning of each school year or within 30 days of adoption. On Friday, Idaho lawmakers advanced legislation that would require libraries to “protect minors from harmful materials” and create a review process for library resources deemed offensive.

Other states passed similar legislation last year, and while the details vary from classroom to classroom, there’s no question they’re encouraging parents and teachers to reconsider what’s on the shelves. Florida’s recently established limits on curriculum and books—touted as preventing divisive or inappropriate instruction on race or gender—have reportedly subjected more than one million books to review. The Utah parent challenging the Bible’s inclusion in school libraries reportedly did so to highlight what the parent considers the excessive scope of the state’s new content rules.

There are also bills limiting transgender students’ use of gendered facilities and how or whether teachers can use students’ preferred pronouns. New Hampshire’s House narrowly voted down a measure that would have required teachers to tell parents if a student wanted to switch his or her pronouns, but a similar measure—requiring teachers to disclose the change if parents ask—passed the Senate and is headed for a House vote. Florida’s House Bill 1223 would build on legislation passed last year, expanding a ban on instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade to kindergarten through eighth grade, and blocking school employees and students from using a person’s preferred pronouns if they don’t match the person’s biological sex. “We need to focus on the basics of academics,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argued earlier this month. “We need to focus on reading, writing, math, all of these different things. That is what unites parents and unites us.”

As the migration away from public schools continues apace, initiatives helping parents pay for private education or homeschooling have also spread. So far this year, according to the think tank FutureEd, at least 32 states have proposed bills creating or expanding school-choice programs. Not every proposed measure succeeds, of course–in Virginia, for instance, four education savings account bills flopped.—but others have made it through. Utah’s education savings account program will allow parents to apply for up to $8,000 per student for around 5,000 scholarships. In Iowa and Arkansas, new school-choice funding will start by prioritizing low-income families before expanding to include more students. The “Texas Parental Bill of Rights” would offer $8,000 a year to cover homeschool or private school expenses. 

The House bill passed Friday is the national culmination of these state-level initiatives. The “Parents Bill of Rights Act” would require schools to publish their curricula for perusal, send parents lists of what’s in the school library, and notify them of any violence on school grounds. The GOP likely plans to use Democrats’ votes against the bill as a cudgel to accuse them of opposing parents’ influence over their children’s education—though five Republican representatives also opposed the bill, arguing either that it went too far in targeting transgender students or offered too much federal control of education.

Such positioning on education will almost assuredly play a significant role in Republican primaries ahead of the 2024 election. As we’ve reported before, DeSantis—likely former President Trump’s chief opponent for the nomination—has led the way on education battles, spearheading limits on the discussion of race and gender in schools and opposing an Advanced Placement course on African American studies. Trump has taken the hint, proposing his own education-related measures like allowing parents to vote to choose school principals. At an Iowa rally earlier this month, Trump’s promise to “bring back parental rights into our schools” won loud applause. “I’m saying, ‘parents, you have rights,’” he marveled. “And the place goes crazy.”

Worth Your Time 

  • Tim Alberta’s latest for The Atlantic focuses on the voting bloc that could become Doanld Trump’s greatest vulnerability in next year’s Republican primary: Evangelical voters. “Desperate to dodge culpability for the Republican Party’s poor performance in the November midterm elections, Trump blamed the ‘abortion issue,’” Alberta notes. “He suggested that moderate voters had been spooked by some of the party’s restrictive proposals, while pro-lifers, after half a century of intense political engagement, had grown complacent following the Dobbs ruling. This scapegoating didn’t go over well with social-conservative leaders. For many of them, the transaction they had entered into with Trump in 2016—their support in exchange for his policies—was validated by the fall of Roe. Yet now the former president was distancing himself from the anti-abortion movement while refusing to accept responsibility for promoting bad candidates who lost winnable races. It felt like betrayal.”
  • For the Wall Street Journal’s weekend interview feature, James Taranto spoke with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp about his handling of COVID-19, his willingness to stick it to corporations, and how the 2024 GOP field is shaping up. “‘I have a great relationship with Pence and a really good relationship with DeSantis,” said Kemp, who insisted he harbored no plans of his own to run in 2024. “Chris Christie came and campaigned for us multiple times, along with a lot of other governors. I know Tim Scott real well. Nikki Haley came and campaigned for us. I’ve known her over the years, and I’ve gotten to meet [Mike] Pompeo a couple of times. So I’m kind of like everybody else, I’m just seeing how things are playing out and keeping an open mind.’ One candidate is missing from that list. ‘Yeah, I haven’t heard from Trump.’”
  • Gordon Moore, the co-founder and former chairman of Intel, died on Friday at the age of 94. “Along with a handful of colleagues, Mr. Moore could claim credit for bringing laptop computers to hundreds of millions of people and embedding microprocessors into everything from bathroom scales, toasters and toy fire engines to cellphones, cars and jets,” Holcomb Noble and Katie Hafner write in an obituary reflecting on Moore’s life and work. “In 1965, in what became known as Moore’s Law, he predicted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip would double at regular intervals for the foreseeable future, thus increasing the data-processing power of computers exponentially. He added two corollaries later: The evolving technology would make computers more and more expensive to build, yet consumers would be charged less and less for them because so many would be sold. Moore’s Law held up for decades.” But even Moore recognized physical limitations would eventually bring his eponymous law to its end. “It can’t continue forever,” he said in a 2005 interview with Techworld magazine.

Presented Without Comment  

Also Presented Without Comment  

Also Also Presented Without Comment  

March Madness Update

After another incredible weekend of games—including Creighton’s heartbreaking loss to San Diego State—Twadsworth13 and OkieStrat are tied for first place in the TMD Pool, followed by SamwichesSam, Stevemwoodward, and potter.r.d.

All of the top-five brackets’ winners have been eliminated, however, so readers who picked UConn—MFPRanger, Definitely Wrong, Alex_Mayer, Gatorsarous—could come storming back if the Huskies win it all.

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Chris dissects (🔒) the standard Republican reaction to a Trump scandal, Nick looks into (🔒) a story involving the statue of David and a fired principal, and Jonah tackles the “metaphorical orgy of fake rebelliousness, elite anti-elitism, the riot of exceedingly profitable and comfortable anti-establishmentarianism, suburban radicalism, and institutionalized transgressiveness” plaguing American politics today.
  • On the podcasts: Jonah waxes poetic on the president of West Texas A&M’s decision to cancel a drag show on campus, and Sarah talks to David Pietrusza about his book, 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents. Plus: For more information about how to subscribe to members-only podcasts like High Steaks, click here.
  • On the site over the weekend: Alec panned Netflix’s attempt to recast Elvis as an animated secret agent, Guy Denton reviewed Willem Dafoe’s latest movie, and Peter Meilaender filled readers in on a book about the Greek classics and Chinese nationalism.
  • On the site today: Harvest covers Biden’s broken promises to expand the country’s refugee program and Chris argues that universities should take a page from the late Charles Krauthammer by engaging with the best arguments of their ideological opponents.

Let Us Know

What role do you think parents should have in shaping what their children are taught in public schools?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.