(March 9, 2023) As far as Worcester County government’s leadership is concerned, the state’s comprehensive health education framework bill just keeps getting worse.
The House bill found its way in front of the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee on Monday and left with amended language that might make it harder for parents to keep their children away from a curriculum that will teach them aspects of sex education and sexual health that some parents are not comfortable with.
The amendments make … the bill even more horrible than it was in its original format,” Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino said at the end of the commissioners meeting on Tuesday. “Among other things, it takes out the parental oversight. It does not allow for parental opt-out of the program.”
The actual amendment to the bill, in part, requires “the state superintendent to provide notice to a county board if the state superintendent determines that the county board is not following the state board policy and guidelines or is authorizing students to opt out of instruction in a manner that is not approved by the state board; requiring the state superintendent to direct the state comptroller to withhold certain funds from the county board if the county board does not resolve the discrepancy within certain periods of time.”
If a school board fails to adopt the curriculum in its entirety, the bill stipulates that the state comptroller withhold 10 percent of that district’s funding for that fiscal year.
The amended bill does not specify what would be considered “a manner that is not approved by the state board.”
“This yet again flashes a full light on what I believe is an assault on parental rights in this county and throughout the state,” Bertino said. “It’s very disappointing that the state legislature is moving forward with a bill that disrespects and disregards the parental right we all have to raise our children the way we want.”
Commissioner Caryn Abbott said the bill will further limit local control.
“We have an elected school board that we pick as taxpayers to represent us,” she said. “They’re strong-arming them into doing whatever they send down or they’re going to take part of their funding away. I hope that everybody in this room and listening (online) will write letters not supporting this bill.”
Commissioner Ted Elder said the bill is an attack on families and family values.
“It’s a further attempt that’s been going on for quite some time now that the state is … trying to become the parents,” he said. “No one will care as much about a child as their own parents. The fact that they’re even considering something like this, I mean 10 or 20 years ago it would have been unheard of.
“It’s something you’d hear about from some Communist country,” he said.