Leave those teachers alone
Disagreements in this country about the direction of the complex and controversial critical race theory (CRT) topic, along with additional parental concerns arising during the COVID-19 learning-at-home time period for kids over the past two years, have resulted in more parents wanting to get involved in their children’s education. Mask mandates for school kids during COVID-19 also have prompted more parents to get involved in school issues.
There is a strong movement in Kansas, it seems, to keep CRT discussions and instructions out of all K-12 public school classrooms.
CRT, in a nutshell, is a school of thought meant to emphasize the effects of race on one’s social standing. It arose as a challenge to the predominate cultural beliefs that in the decades since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and associated legislation, racial inequality was disappearing. CRT activists say that is not so and want to keep the light shining on racism issues.
Fringe CRT beliefs include the notion that if you are of the white race, then you are a racist, which makes no common sense Suffice to say, the issue of CRT is, indeed, complex and fueled by emotions.
Several bills have been introduced at the Kansas Legislature this session in both the House of Representatives and Senate to promote more transparency in public schools.
Teachers say most of these measures seem punitive in nature and would be nearly impossible to implement, not to mention overburdensome. Teachers also say parents already are welcome to know everything going on in the classrooms.
HB 2662 would create the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act. The act would affirm parents’ right “to direct the upbringing, education, care and mental health’’ of their children and mandate that public schools enact policies protecting those rights.
This bill, along with similar bills in the Senate, would require that school districts create online Parent Transparency Portals that list all books, resources, teacher trainings and academic materials used during the school year, alongside policies and procedures for parents to review and potentially challenge any questionable items.
HB 2662 also would prohibit districts from not renewing school staff contracts on the basis of them refusing to teach in ways that might go against their sincerely-held religious beliefs.
HB 2662 also would allow school district residents and prosecutors to go to court to compel districts to comply with the provisions of the act. If a school district resident successfully challenges a district, then the bill directs courts to allow the resident up to $15,000 in reasonable attorney fees, to be paid for by the district.
SB 393, which complements two other Senate bills on curriculum transparency, and HB 2662, requires school districts to post all learning materials and all learning activities (from the just completed school year) online on or before July 1 of each year and then to leave them online for at least one year after the just completed school year, according to Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, one of the House members introducing HB 2662.
SB 393 also would hold back state funding from school districts that fail to publish their academic materials online until they comply.
Representatives from the Kansas Association of School Boards says the proposed legislation “appears to solve a problem that does not exist.’’
And representatives from the Kansas State Department of Education say the bills could lead to more of an administrative burden on public schools than any rights that aren’t already protected by local, state and federal education regulations.
Teachers say parents already have access to curriculum information at the websites of most school disrticts. Teaching materials and lesson plans are also readily available to parents at most school districts. They are certainly available if parents ask for them. Some teachers post lesson plans outside their classrooms and send printed information home for kids to give to their parents.
Kansas lawmakers want to act like they are addressing issues that their constituents are bringing to them. That is good and more parental involvement in the schools should be applauded, too. But it is simply not a good idea to lay all this new paperwork and reporting work onto all of our teachers, who are coming off of two years of hell-work, just like the rest of us.
If the aim of the Legislature is to take punitive action against any teacher found to be not following the official school curriculum, then the Legislature should just do that instead. Require teachers who are under investigation for violating curriculum standards to provide the list of their educational materials and educational activities. And leave the rest of the teachers, the other 99.99 percent of them, alone.