GOP Bill Requiring Schools in Pennsylvania to Publish Curriculum Progress Online Through Legislature
A bill that would require Pennsylvania public schools to publish educational materials online is advancing through the state legislature.
The Senate Education Committee approved measure 7-4 this week according to party lines, with unanimous support from Republicans.
The “curriculum transparency” bill would require schools to share their curricula on public websites from next year. The committee approved an amended version of a measure that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The updated version directly spells out the information that schools must provide, including a course syllabus or written summary of each class, state academic standards for each course, and a link or title for each textbook used.
The sponsor of the bill, State Representative Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin) said the goal was to increase transparency and make school programs more accessible to parents.
State law already requires that public schools give parents and guardians access to information about educational materials. This legislation, he said, “would bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century” by making this information available online.
âThis is going to be something that I think is really going to result in a lot of engagement and collaboration between parents and school districts as parents are more and more involved in their children’s education every day, especially at the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic, âLewis continued.
But critics say the bill places a burden on school staff and is potentially a tool to censor teachers during a time of intense debate over how race is taught in schools.
“Bill 1332 is deliberately misleading,” said Senator Lindsey Williams (County of D-Allegheny), minority chair of the Senate education committee.
“It’s billed as transparency, but in reality it’s an unfunded mandate that fuels the flames of this larger national debate pitting the public against teachers … It’s part of a larger war which says that teachers should not be respected for their careers and expertise and that they should not have the ability to teach accurate history and cultural and racial skills to our students.
Over the past year, a growing number of parents and lawmakers have spoken out against what they call “critical race theory.” Developed in the 1970s and 1980s by jurists, the theory is an academic framework that examines how race and racism shaped American policies and institutions, and is typically taught at the college level.
More recently, it has also become a catch-all term for discussions of race and racism. Some lawmakers have decided to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools, although the language of the bills is sometimes vague, creating confusion over what teachers can and cannot. not teach.
A Texas law that came into effect last month states that schools cannot teach that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, because of his or her race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, âamong other restrictions.
A bill in Pennsylvania that went to committee in June would ban, among other provisions, on-the-job training in schools which states that “an individual, by reason of race or sex, is responsible for acts committed in the past by members of the race or sex of the individual.
Debates on such issues have also led to controversial school board meetings in recent months. In November, the Central York School District voted to ban the use of educational materials, including a documentary based on the writings of James Baldwin and anti-racism resources from the National Education Association. The council later reversed its decision after protests from students.
“Unfunded Mandate” or “Rebuilding Confidence”?
Speaking about the ‘curriculum transparency’ bill, Philadelphia Teachers’ Federation president Jerry Jordan said he sees it as part of a larger national campaign to end classroom instruction. that raise difficult questions about the legacy of American racism.
âThe shameful truth of racism, both historically and today, must be taught. And as a society, we must not just teach it, but do all we can to collectively dismantle the systems that have long failed blacks and browns, âJordan said. âThis bill is far from a benign attempt to increase the transparency of curricula. “
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is also opposed to the measure.
âSince the educational materials are already available to parents and guardians, educators are wondering what Representative Lewis is really trying to accomplish with this proposal? PESA President Rich Askey said in a recent statement. âThe last thing students need right now is more politicization of their education. “
In a Facebook post announcing the bill earlier this year, Representative Lewis expressed concern about what students might learn in schools.
“Parents need to be in the driver’s seat of education, not an out-of-state textbook publisher teaching God knows what (hint: anti-American socialism) to our students,” he wrote in the post. . âIt’s time to turn the tide and empower parents once again. “
In an interview with Keystone Crossroads this week, Lewis played down the message, saying his bill was not intended to target specific programs.
“I’m obviously very opposed to socialist ideology and I don’t think there is room for these ideologies to be taught in our schools, but I don’t want to focus so much on specific curricula with this bill. “, did he declare. “It was me personally.”
HB 1332 is “just a simple measure of transparency that no matter who you are as a parent or what your specific ideologies or beliefs are, you can follow what your child is learning and stay up to date,” Lewis said. “And that’s something I really think there should be multi-stakeholder and cross-cultural support among just about every parent.”
During the bill’s discussion by the Senate Education Committee, Lewis’s Republican colleagues said they believed the measure would not only empower parents, but help restore confidence in the school system.
“HB 1332 allows parents to take a more active role in monitoring what their children are learning and I think there is no better cause than that,” said Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) .
Senator Michelle Brooks (R-Mercer) added that she hopes the legislation “will actually begin to bridge some of the divisions that we see not only across Pennsylvania but across the country” and create a partnership between parents and school districts “so that we can move forward with confidence and understanding and know what is being taught to our children and our students and that parents are involved in this process.”
The bill is now on the verge of being put to a full vote in the Senate and the amended version will come back to the House. Governor Tom Wolf, however, signaled he would veto the measure.
Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger said the legislation could be used to shut down some class discussions and called the bill an “unfunded mandate and a potentially dangerous way to push more people into it. ensure all learners have access to story accuracy and exposure to content that reflects multiple student identities.
She went on to say that while many “misinterpret these important experiments as critical race theory,” CRT is not taught in any state-run curriculum at K-12 schools in Pennsylvania.
âTo prepare our Pennsylvania learners for a global market, they need the ability to learn more about others and their experiences. It shouldn’t be a political discussion, âKensinger said.
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