Parents around the country are breathing a sigh of relief: After nearly two years, most students are no longer forced to wear masks. With the omicron variant waning, parents are increasingly confident that their children will have undisrupted in-person learning for the rest of the school year.

It’s tempting just to accept this return to normal and let concerns about what’s happening at our students’ schools become another COVID-19 relic, like 6-foot social distancing and plexiglass barriers between tables in restaurants. Busy parents have enough to worry about. We never wanted to add complaining to our school boards and our elected representatives to our to-do lists.

But what happened during the COVID shut down and its aftermath meant we had to engage. We knew that what was happening was actually hurting children. Teachers’ unions and district bureaucrats were fighting to keep schools virtual for as long as possible, in spite of obvious lost learning and deteriorating mental health for students. Parents had to push back on behalf of their children. Without an outcry from parents and the specter of political consequences for school board members and political leaders, how much longer might they have kept our public schools closed and our children masked?

Parents have won the fight to open schools and unmask students — for now, at least. Yet we can’t just accept this return to the status quo and stand down. We now know that there is a fundamental problem with our public school systems. School closures, masking policies, politicized curricula — these were all just symptoms of an underlying disease that remains as virulent as ever. School boards and our public school systems do not respect parents. Student well-being is not their priority. Until parents have real leverage, until schools see parents and students as valued customers, that isn’t going to change.

That means parents must stay engaged with what’s happening in their schools and with the officials who control them. Most importantly, parents need to push for actual policy change — and that means replacing policymakers invested in the status quo with ones who will transform our public school system to give parents actual power. And power means one thing: control of funding and resources. School boards awash in unspent federal COVID relief funds aren’t immediately affected by a downtick in public schools enrollment. Their positions are safe. Their union allies and the vast school bureaucracy will keep getting paid. They really don’t care about the unhappiness of the populace they are supposed to serve, until their position and power are threatened.

Parents should be pushing for any policy reform that changes this power dynamic. Money should follow the child. It’s that simple. Yet simple as it is, that change won’t be easy, so parents have work to do in the meantime. We have to continue to monitor what’s happening at our schools and to keep asking questions. If you see something that’s wrong at your school, speak up. Ask about that survey that your child filled out during health class — it likely included invasive questions about your child’s sexual history and gender identity. Ask to see a copy of your child’s curriculum — you may be surprised by how many classes focus on radical ideology rather than academic instruction. Ask if your school has developed a gender support plan designed to hide the name and pronouns your child may have adopted at school. Yes, it’s awkward. Yes, they likely will be reluctant to share anything with you. But ask yourself why. It shouldn’t be a problem for you to know what’s happening at your schools and to your children. It should be the norm.

Adults lecture children about the importance of standing up for themselves and against peer pressure. Don’t just go along to get along, we say, if you know what the crowd is doing is wrong. Yet it’s so easy for parents just to acquiesce when school leaders make us feel like nuisances for questioning them. We have to stop caring about what they think of us. And better yet, parents should have confidence in knowing that a solid minority of teachers and administrators agree with them and agree these questions need to be asked.

Parents have more power than they used to, because we have the ability to expose what our students’ schools are doing to the public. Anyone can be a reporter by sharing his or her findings on social media. If you think that something is going on in your child’s school that shouldn’t be, speak up about it in your community and share your specific concerns with local media and leaders, as well as your friends and neighbors. Most parents want to know and many will share your concerns. Find out who else is active in your area. Maybe there is a group already formed. Or maybe you can start one. It only takes a few engaged and effective parents to begin to make change.

Schools know that parents are engaged. They know that people are now thinking about previously unthinkable changes to our education system. Now is not the time to let up. Our children are too important.