Town Hall Meeting on Senate Bill 18 with Senator Richard Pan


Video courtesy of California Family Council

Senator Richard Pan hosted a town hall meeting on Tuesday night in regards to Senate Bill 18, his newest bill assaulting parental rights. The Town Hall Meeting consisted of a panel which included, Senator Richard Pan, Craig Cheslog of Common Sense Media (also present but not answering questions was Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media), School Board Member Jessie Ryan, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, Kim Williams of Building Healthy Communities, and Supervisor Phil Serna who also serves as the Sacramento County Chair for the First Five commission.

This meeting turned out to be everything we thought it would be: full of canned answers and talking points. The room quickly filled with concerned and upset parents and community members. When attendees arrived they had the opportunity to write a question or comment down on a sheet of paper. Throughout the night questions and comments were selected and attendees were allowed only 30 seconds to speak.

Neither Senator Pan nor his panel could control the room long enough to facilitate a productive conversation. Attendees would ask their question or state their concern and for the most part the panel would dance around it answering with vague predetermined answers. This left the attendees more than a little dissatisfied. Multiple times attendees erupted with shouts of frustration.

Disruption, frustration and down right anger erupted inside, meanwhile even more gathered outside with signs opposing SB 18 to educate the surrounding community and passers-by.

The main topics of the evening were early childhood education, funding, and parental rights.

SB 18 supporters used Early Education as well as access to childcare as the reason they created SB 18 and saying that the right a child has to early education and childcare is the premise of the Bill of Rights for Children.School Board member Jessie Ryan voiced her idea that children have a fundamental right to early childhood education. The legislation currently talks about appropriate, quality education. Who gets to decide what appropriate early childhood education is for a child? And what if what the parent decides conflicts with what the government has decided? Who is the final authority over children? Greg Burt of California Family Council asked if this legislation would allow for children to sue their parents and his question was never given a solid response. While it was declared that this is not the intent of the bill, it has been speculated that it may be a reality.

Funding was also a great concern for attendees. Opponents believe this bill will undoubtedly create more ineffective and under-funded programs. It was communicated by the panelists throughout the night that this bill is a vehicle to garner funding for programs for children. But with current education funding in California in the crisis it is, how can taxpayers trust that this money will be managed effectively and efficiently?

Senator Pan chose some of his words carefully, but not all. Numerous parents questioned the Senator on what would protect their rights as a parent if this bill were to pass. At one point Senator Pan responded saying that parents have “some protection under the law…” He also repeatedly answered questions from concerned parents, worried about their parental rights saying, “It is not the bill’s intent.” Senator Pan, although it might not be your intent, we as citizens need to understand the “unintended” consequences of this bill.

Perhaps one of the more chilling statements of the evening was when Senator Pan mentioned that the proponents of this bill want to focus on preventative care, which includes home visitations. Our question remains, home visitations to whom?

Senator Pan also made sure to note “If there is great public concern someone can always referendize the bill.” The public is being proactive and voicing their concerns before the bill is signed into law, his comments seem to indicate that regardless of the public concern now, he is going to move forward with the bill.

If SB 18 passes, who will be the final authority in medical, educational, health, and life decisions for children in California? What happens if the government decides a parent is not allowing their child to access these codified “rights”? When will the amendments and substantive language be released? While many unanswered questions remain, one thing is certain, these parents and community members are not going away. So long as SB 18 remains, so will their concerns and their activism.
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