Burr, Tillis among senators questioning Biden ed chief over controversial letter

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., left, and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., leave the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

RALEIGH — North Carolina U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis are among the two dozen Republican senators who want answers from Biden Education Secretary Miguel Cardona over his apparent solicitation of a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that compared school parents to domestic terrorists. 

“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,” the senators’ letter to Cardona reads. “Parents across the country are outraged that their children’s education has been disrupted, delayed, even denied over the past two years.” 

The letter to Cardona was announced in a press statement by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), who is leading the effort.  

“While we knew early on that White House staff were complicit in the creation of this letter, it is only recently that information has surfaced implicating you and your office in this shameful episode,” wrote the senators. “News reports indicate that the letter from the NSBA to President Joe Biden was actually initiated at your request. Accountability begins at the top, and as U.S. Secretary of Education you must explain your role, or your staff’s role, in the creation of this letter.” 

Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education published on Jan. 11, 2022, indicate the NSBA’s then-interim director Chip Slaven “told the [NSBA] officers he was writing a letter to provide information to the White House, from a request by Secretary Cardona.” 

The NSBA’s letter to President Biden first surfaced Sept. 29, 2021. The letter suggested treating parent protests at school boards like “domestic terrorism” by applying the Patriot Act.  

Based on the NSBA letter, on Oct. 4, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum directing the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to investigate parents across the country protesting at school board meetings. House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R- NC9), immediately issued a letter demanding answers from Garland. 

On Oct. 22, 2021, the NSBA issued an apology for the letter to its members. As of late December 2021, 28 state chapters had distanced themselves from the organization, including 19 states dropping their membership, North Carolina’s state school board association among them.  

By mid-November, documents provided to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a whistleblower showed the FBI had begun using counterterrorism measures with regard to school boards around the country through the use of a threat tag called “EDUOFFICIALS.” 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education denied the allegation, telling FOX News that “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.” 

Cardona himself also denied he asked for the letter in a CBS Mornings interview on Jan. 12.  

About A.P. Dillon 1070 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_