by Fred Lucas
More than 40 House Republicans are calling for the ouster of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona after a report of his apparent role in a national schools group’s calling some concerned parents “domestic terrorists,” while 24 GOP senators are asking the nation’s top education official for answers.
The push comes after Fox News reported earlier this week on emails indicating that Cardona solicited a highly publicized letter to President Joe Biden from the National School Boards Association asking that officials apply the Patriot Act and other counterterror tools to dissenting parents.
An NSBA email said the letter to Biden was a “request from the secretary.” Cardona denied having anything to do with the group’s letter.
Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., led a letter dated Thursday in which she and 40 other House Republicans ask Biden to fire Cardona.
“Your pledge to help bring unity will ring even more hollow if Secretary Cardona continues in his current position,” the letter from McClain and the others says. “As such, in order to uphold your promise to help bring unity and healing to a divided nation, you must fire Secretary Cardona effective immediately.”
I call on Congress to hold a hearing and ask @SecCardona about his involvement directly.
If he directed the NSBA letter, Cardona should resign. https://t.co/10V0xlwMcq
— Kevin Roberts (@KevinRobertsTX) January 12, 2022
The Sept. 29 letter to Biden from the National School Boards Association quickly led to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Oct. 4 memo directing the FBI and Justice Department to target parents who speak out about education policies at school board meetings across the United States.
“Parents are not ‘domestic terrorists’ and it is appalling that anyone would suggest that exercising the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly would be characterized as a threat,” reads a letter to Cardona led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and signed by 23 fellow Senate Republicans.
The senators’ letter to Cardona, also dated Thursday, continues:
Fox News reported that in an Oct. 5 email from NSBA Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett to Marnie Maraldo, a member of the Issaquah School District school board in Washington, recounted that the national group’s interim CEO, Chip Slaven, “told the officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona.”
The email exchange between Swett and Maraldo was obtained by the activist group Parents Defending Education through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among the 24 GOP senators signing Scott’s letter to Cardona. Other signers include conservatives such as Mike Lee of Utah and moderates such as Susan Collins of Maine.
In an interview Wednesday with CBS News, Cardona said the Education Department had no role in the letter to the president from the National School Boards Association.
“We didn’t ask for that letter,” Cardona said. “I think the real focus should be how do we authentically engage parents. I think moving forward we have to have a better strategy across the country to listen to parents and to make sure they are engaged in the process. But no. Specifically with that letter, we didn’t request that, or there was no involvement in that.”
Asked about the FBI getting involved in parents’ disputes with local school boards, the education secretary told CBS:
Any threats toward any elected officials is unacceptable. Whatever steps need to be taken to make sure that doesn’t happen should be. I know especially across the country our board members oftentimes are volunteers that want to help their community and they should be protected.
In an email statement to The Daily Signal, an Education Department spokesperson said: “While the secretary did not solicit a letter from NSBA, to understand the views and concerns of stakeholders, the department routinely engages with students, teachers, parents, district leaders and education associations.”
Throughout 2021, parents across the United States attended school board meetings to express frustration about school closures and mask mandates because of COVID-19, as well as policies for transgender students and ahistorical curriculum such as critical race theory.
The Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association to Biden said that disruptions at school board meetings posed a threat of “domestic terrorism.”
On Oct 4, Garland issued a memo directing the FBI and U.S. attorneys to act on the contents of the association’s letter.
The prompt response sparked suspicion among some conservatives that the Biden administration initiated the national group’s letter to the president.
After significant criticism and the withdrawal of multiple state school board associations from the national body, leaders of the National School Boards Association apologized Oct. 22 for the letter to Biden.
The group now faces a complete collapse, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
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Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.” Send an email to Fred.