Senate, House committees clash over legitimacy of education bill of rights legislation

TOPEKA – Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday held hearings on legislation establishing a bill on the right to education for parents of public schoolchildren, which went beyond information about routine academic pursuits and included boundaries to address moral and religious topics.

While the Senate version focused on the ideas of transparency in education in K-12 schools, the House of Representatives publication infiltrated the Penal Code, creating an offense to prevent students from attending obscene materials in schools. The House Committee will also eliminate the so-called affirmative protection against legal action that educators expect when entering a contentious area of ​​the curriculum.

The House of Representatives bill prohibits school districts from negatively evaluating teachers or renewing contracts with educators for refusing to teach students ideas that contradict their personal religious beliefs or those who refuse to teach ideas expressed as critical racial theory and related racial issues.

The version presented in the House of Representatives outlines how school districts will have to make an inventory of all library books or materials in order to affix the label “parental check” if it is found that they include sexual behavior, violence or obscene language.

Senator Pat Patti, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, said the parenting package included in both bills – two-page Senate Bill 496 and nine-page House Bill 2662 – was created on the recommendations of the Conservative Heritage Foundation. , District of Columbia. The Kansas legislation was supported by seven people, opposed by more than 100 people who testified before the committees.

Matt Beyenburg, director of educational policy at the Conservative Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, said Kansas would be wise to establish a bill on parental rights because political content is distributed nationally in almost every classroom and subject area. More than 20 states have introduced education transparency laws comparable to bills in Kansas, he said.

He said many teachers believe their mission is to link history, science, math and other subjects with politics to “open students’ eyes to a more enlightened or awakened worldview.” He said the “academically discredited” essays in “Project 1619,” prepared by the New York Times, were accepted in classes in all 50 states without proper study of these materials.

Chaparral High School chairwoman Metallin Swartz, the only student to testify about transparency legislation, said she plans to go to college to become a teacher. She opposed the invasion of the legislature into classes.

“The bill limits educational opportunities and ties the hands of educators to provide a learning environment that is attractive and individual,” she said.

Adam Profit, the director of the governor’s budget, Lori Kelly, said the law obliges school districts to absorb millions of dollars in costs associated with setting up online portals with curriculum information and evaluation of library materials. He said the House bill could increase litigation involving school districts.

Lauren Theiss Miller, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, said the bills under the House and Senate would undermine teacher-parent relations and fuel tactics splitting special interest groups that unfairly humiliate public school teachers. (Sherman Smith / Kansas Reflector)

Insulting teachers

During the Senate Education Committee, supporters were thrilled with the rights bill, which reaffirms the right of parents to learn more about the curriculum presented to their children. Skeptics say the legislation duplicates existing district policies and state laws. For example, the current state law, known as the Parental Rights Act, or KSA 38-141 (b), states public policy that parents “retain the fundamental right to exercise basic control over the care and upbringing of their children in their recovery”.

Lauren Theis Miller, who is lobbying the National Education Association of Kansas, said the proposed rights bill would ruin the relationship between teachers and parents, forcing them to invest time and money in an online communication format.

“There is no doubt that this website will serve as a prospectus for groups with no special interests funded by black money,” said Thais Miller. said.

Michael Popa, executive director of the Mainstream Coalition, said the legislation demonstrated the desire of some politicians to satisfy a narrow proportion of parents angry with public schools.

“They should not have the right to threaten teachers, ban materials or books that represent a direct point of view,” he said.

Under the House and Senate bills, parents of K-12 students will be able to check materials, activities, curricula, lessons, abstracts, surveys, tests, questionnaires, exams, books, magazines, handouts, and posted materials for professional development. and learning online on the new parent transparency portal of each district.

Parents will have the right to object to educational materials or actions that allegedly violate parental beliefs, values, or principles. The bill guarantees the right of parents to withdraw their children from school activities, classes or programs.

Mike O’Neill, a lobbyist for the Kansas Institute of Politics, has passed legislation designed to oblige more information about curricula with parents of public school students. (Capture the Kansas Reflector screen from the Kansas Legislature YouTube channel)

“Not some radical idea”

Brittany Jones, a lawyer for the Christ-oriented organization Kansas Family Voice, said government, schools and the church should play a role in developing children’s education. “The Bill of Rights guarantees parents or guardians the ability to prevent children from getting unpleasant materials,” she said.

“The policy proposed today is not some radical idea,” Jones said. “Parents know and raise their children best. Educational institutions can become an asset in this regard. “

Under the Senate bill, the school was to avoid K-12 curricula and teacher development services that promoted the doctrine of “racial essentialism” in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. racial theory or CRT, said Mike O’Neill, a lobbyist for the Kansas Institute of Politics.

He said these materials escaped sufficient public attention, which put forward the theory that educators tried to teach students certain ideologies or force them to question certain values ​​and beliefs.

“It’s almost certain that these issues will play an important role in future primary and general election races across the country and in Kansas,” O’Neill said.

Judith Didi, executive director of Game On for Kansas schools, said this part of the bill raises baseless allegations that schools violate civil rights laws. It is worrying that the Civil Rights Act has been used to attack diversity, justice and inclusion initiatives that are implemented to make every child feel a sense of belonging in school, Didi said.

Under Kansas law, parents will be allowed to check written and electronic records kept at the school for their children. Parents will also be able to view the learning materials used to teach the child. Under the bills, child health decisions will include the power to make decisions about vaccinations or immunizations. There has been controversy in the Senate over whether this means that parents can circumvent current child vaccination standards.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the House bill would harm public schools by ending affirmative protection for educators who teach controversial subjects and giving religious exceptions to teachers who refuse to deal with certain topics. (Sherman Smith / Kansas Reflector)

Red Flag Books

Buhler’s teacher Samantha Neal, Kansas Teacher of the Year 2018, said the legislation is harmful because it would exacerbate a critical shortage in the staff of highly qualified educators, driving away good teachers, she said.

“Not because they have anything to hide, but because this bill calls into question who they are people. These educators are the people you sit next to in church, attend ball games, and stand in line at your local grocery store, ”Neil said.

The House of Representatives bill deviated from the Senate version, removing the affirmative protection provided by state law for educators accused of obscene criminal representation. A positive defense allowed the educator to present evidence and, if found credible, to deny responsibility, even if it was proven that the defendant had committed the alleged acts.

Legislation in the House of Representatives requires school districts to provide an online inventory of all library materials. Every element – book, magazine, newspaper, poster, picture, film, recording, video – must be evaluated to determine whether it requires the designation “parental review” because of its sexual, obscene or violent content.

Parents’ request for a warning label should be accepted, unless the product “clearly does not deserve such a designation.” The metrics for determining whether materials are offensive will be based on current standards of the pornography community.

Thomas Witt, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Kansas, said he opposed the withdrawal of confirmation
protecting teachers by presenting materials approved by the curriculum, and allowing teachers to request religious exceptions to the teaching of course materials that they have been hired to transfer. Both ideas have been proposed and rejected in the past by the legislature.

“Unfortunately, like many other really pathetic ideas in this building, he is back,” he said.

Leave a Comment