Letter from National Parents Union President, Keri Rodrigues

to Elected Officials & Policymakers

Dear Elected Leaders and Policymakers:

In communities across the country, families are calling for fundamental changes to how their children are educated and an equity-infused recovery from the pandemic. As part of that, is a demand for accountability made even more urgent by the $122 billion in relief for K-12 schools under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund.

While many families support this federal investment in education at a critical time of need, Congress has provided very limited guidance to states and school districts about what needs to be included in their plans on how to spend the funding and how these plans will be evaluated.

That is why the National Parents Union, a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists advocating for a higher quality education and quality of life for children across the U.S., is taking action and launching the watchdog campaign, Everyday Parents Impacting Change (EPIC).

We already know school district leaders and elected school boards are ill-equipped to govern public education and serve the best interests of all students, a problem that was exacerbated by the pandemic. We cannot allow them to squander billions of dollars that will determine education outcomes for tens of millions of children.

In partnership with families and advocates in communities nationwide, EPIC will:

  • Demand transparency from federal, state and local elected officials.
  • Ensure that school boards/districts are authentically engaging families in the decision-making process at every turn.
  • Verify that funding is spent on student-centered investments that are rooted in access and equity for children most in need.

NPU’s EPIC initiative draws insights and calls to action from polling of parents across the country. Since Spring 2020, NPU has conducted more than two dozen surveys of K-12 public school parents about how their families are being impacted by the pandemic in the only national poll of its kind, developed by parents and for parents.

From September 9-13, 2021, and in partnership with Echelon Insights, we polled 1,006 parents about their level of awareness of ARP ESSER funding, and the degree to which they have been engaged in conversations about this funding by their school district. The results of the survey revealed the following key sentiments:

  • Less than half of the parents (only 46%) surveyed have heard of the funding that schools will receive from the federal government as part of the stimulus packages and how those funds can be used.
  • When asked who should be involved in deciding how this additional funding should be used in schools, parents say that teachers (61%), parents (56%), school district leaders (50%) and school principals (50%) should be included.
  • Unfortunately, despite that perspective, only 21% of parents say that their children’s schools have asked parents to give input or feedback on how these additional federal funds they have received should be used.
  • Importantly, families whose household income is less than $50,000 were even less likely to have been engaged with only 17% of parents saying they have been asked to give input/feedback.
  • Parents are looking for school leaders to reimagine education, as 57% of parents say that the additional federal funding opens the door to making bold changes in public education and we should take advantage of this opportunity.
  • When parents were asked about priorities for how the funds should be spent several activities rose to the top including: computers and high-speed internet access (79%), services and support for students with disabilities (79%), face masks/hand sanitizer/hand soap (78%), free lunch and breakfast program (78%) and guidance counselors/social workers/psychologists (75%).
  • While most of the activities had differing levels of support from parents with different political views, Republican and Democrat parents agree that funding should be used for individualized learning plans for each student and free breakfast and lunch programs.
  • When parents were asked what would be most helpful for their children, individualized learning plan for each student (23%), PPE such as face masks, hand sanitizer and soap (23%), providing direct grants to parents of $500 per child for educational needs (22%), computers and high-speed internet access for students (21%), and free breakfast and lunch programs (20%).

The full results of the poll are available publicly here.

The poll findings reflect the stories we are hearing from families and education justice advocates on the ground as we travel across the country. As the independent voice of American families, NPU ensures the opinions, concerns, ideas, and priorities of parents are shared with decision-makers to drive public policy regarding public education and related matters.

NPU supports parents who have lived experience and are authentic voices. They are parent advocates and organizers who are engaging and educating families, neighborhood by neighborhood across the country. They are the moms, the dads, the grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, god-parents, friends, step-parents, who are fighting every single day to ensure the children they care for have a better life than they have had. And it begins with their education.

We believe every child has the civil right to a high-quality and equitable education. Yet, such an education remains inaccessible to far too many students of color and students from low-income communities. The time has come to translate “kids first” from a political sound bite into an actionable civil right for every parent and student.

At no other time in history has such a large federal investment been made in public schools. How we spend these funds will impact many generations to come.

Now is the time for educators and elected leaders to decide whether to hold onto the status quo with all its structural issues ranging from inadequate quality instruction, inequity and institutional racism, or to fully champion the reimagination of education for children, particularly our most vulnerable students.

And we call on you to do your part in ensuring every child has access to an equitable, high-quality education, a mode to freedom from oppression. We urge you to act immediately by:

  1. Committing to a transparent multi-year ARP spending plan
  2. Ensuring funds are distributed equitably across schools and allocated to increase learning time for students who need it most
  3. Engaging families and communities in spending decisions
  4. Tracking and sharing outcomes of ARP investments, and adjusting as needed

If these are steps you are willing to commit to, we want to work with you to make a difference in the lives of children across the country.

We have no time to waste.


Keri Rodrigues
National Parents Union