GOP pushes US schools to post all course materials online

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican U.S. state lawmakers are trying to require schools to post all course materials online for parents to view, part of a broader national campaign by the GOP for a sweeping parenting bill of rights before the midterm congressional elections.

At least one proposal would give non-expert parents power over program choices. Parents could also file complaints about certain lessons and, in some cases, sue school districts.

Teachers say parents already have easy access to what their children are learning. They fear mandates create an unnecessary burden and potentially threaten their professional independence, while embroiling them in a culture war.

The bill “implies there are hiding places,” said Katie Peters, a Toledo High School English teacher. “It makes me a little defensive, because I’m like – no, wait a minute, we’re not hiding anything. The transparency is still there, and the parents who cared to look have still had access to it.

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Invoices were from last year debate on teaching about race, diversity and sexuality. The GOP insists that changes are needed to give parents some control over what their children see and hear in the classroom.

“I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that more information is better for parents,” said Brett Hillyer, a Republican state representative from Ohio who is co-sponsoring such a bill. He said the proposal could ease disagreements between parents, teachers and school boards before they go too far.

Educators don’t mind keeping parents informed, but they do see a risk that so-called program transparency requirements invite censorship, burnout and quits.

Other states considering a version of the idea include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Ohio’s bill would affect public, private and charter schools, as well as colleges and universities that participate in the state’s dual enrollment program for students in grades seven through 12.

A group of three Ohio teachers recently sat down with The Associated Press to discuss the proposal. They said they already publish curriculum, textbook information, course materials, and sometimes notes for parents and students — at least at the middle and high school levels.

None of them recalled ever refusing a parent’s request for additional information.

Juliet Tissot, a mother of two from the Cincinnati suburb of Madeira, said elementary classrooms were a different story. The nonprofit and volunteer worker said schools stopped sending textbooks home years ago and often failed to provide curriculum details when asked. This leaves parents searching for information when helping kids with homework.

“Children are much more with their parents than with their teachers, and it’s a shame that parents don’t know what’s going on – and they don’t know anymore,” she said. “I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, but it looks like it’s finally coming to a head.”

Tissot also supports tighter monitoring of teachers’ behavior, including requiring them to wear body cameras.

Ohio teachers said parents of older children sometimes pull a student out of class — for example, when evolution or the Big Bang are taught in science — or ask for another assignment when they’re offended. by selected reading, and these interactions generally go smoothly.

“That is what this law lacks. It’s painted in broad stripes, like it has these irregularities,” said Dan Greenberg, who teaches high school English in the Toledo suburb of Sylvania. “You’re talking to people who are right there in the trenches, and we always have a very good partnership with the parents.

The GOP acted after the conservatives complained public school responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning that followed the death of George Floyd, the black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in 2020. Some states and local school boards have banned books on race relations, slavery and gender.

Ohio teachers say Republican efforts could ultimately erode their ability to make professional judgments and stifle the spontaneity that brings their classrooms to life, while adding to workloads that have already taken a serious toll. toll on school personnel.

“I’m afraid it’s a kind of Trojan horse coming into the classroom to select what they see and steer us in different directions or stop us from doing things,” said Robert Estice, professor of science and critical thinking in college. Columbus suburb of Worthington.

Emerson Sykes, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, called the bills “thinly veiled attempts to prevent teachers and students from learning about and talking about race and gender in schools. “.

Hillyer said he doesn’t want parents to be able to censor school materials.

The proposed parent bill of rights calls for access to school materials and academic, medical and security records, as well as certain privileges to enter school buildings and more. An effort last year to politicize normally sleepy school board races was seen by some as a dress rehearsal to boost Republican turnout in 2022.

Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute that lobbies for program transparency, said in a Twitter post last month that the proposals “will cause the left” to come across as opposing transparency. He said it would raise the question of what Democrats need to hide — which will help Republican candidates.

“The strategy here is to use a non-threatening liberal value – ‘transparency’ – to force ideological actors to submit to public scrutiny,” Rufo tweeted, explaining that the GOP proposals “will give parents powerful control over bureaucratic power”.

The Democratic governors of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have vetoed the program transparency bills. A Utah lawmaker introduced a bill last month after facing a backlash from teachers.

In places where bills are moving forward, some sponsors of the legislation have had to back down following criticism.

During the debate over a Republican endorsement education reform package In Indiana, Republican Senator Scott Baldwin said maintaining neutrality on contentious issues requires teachers to be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies.

After much criticism, Baldwin back the commentssaying in a statement that it “unequivocally” condemns Nazism, Fascism and Marxism and agrees that teachers should do the same.

Indiana conservatives banded together and added provisions ensuring educators can still discuss “social injustices” and “teach that Nazism is wrong.” But the legislation gives local parent committees no expert power over what teachers in the curriculum are using, and parents could file complaints and lawsuits if they think teachers have violated the ban on certain “concepts that divide”.

Teachers describe Indiana’s law as so burdensome that it would likely force some out of the profession.

“I’m struggling to see how I’m going to put some of the language that’s currently in these bills into my classroom and still be able to teach kids to be critical thinkers,” said Suzanne Holcomb, who teaches fifth year at Elkhart. . Lawmakers should understand “how much it takes on a lot of people who are already on the verge of coming out and being finished.”

Scott DiMauro, president of Ohio’s largest teachers’ union, fears such bills could worsen the surge in quits and retirements triggered by the stresses of teaching in the age of COVID. -19.

Teachers, he said, “felt caught in a culture war that they did not create.”

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Smith reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Mike Melia in Hartford, Connecticut; and Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

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