Senate GOP package pushes to provide curriculum to parents

Published 4:57 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Senate Republicans introduced a “Parents Bill of Rights” legislative package on Monday they say would empower parents by giving them more access to curriculum at their children’s schools, mirroring a nationwide GOP push for curriculum transparency.

The package consists of bills that would require schools to have a system for notifying parents of activities at school and prevent schools from withholding information about their child’s wellbeing or education, require access to class syllabi for parents within the first two weeks of the start of classes and provide all instruction materials without cost to parents who request them for review.

A proposal to prevent school boards from requiring that parents disclose their home address before speaking at a meeting and another that would fund an “education savings account” that would help pay for private tutoring or alternative schooling are also in the package.

“The main goal here is to get parents and schools engaged together, to affirmatively and absolutely recognize that parents are part of this process,” said Republican Senate Education Chairman Roger Chamberlain. “We want a partnership between parents and educators and we want it to be fruitful and productive for the ultimate benefit of the children.”

Current statute requires school districts to have a process to allow parents to request instructional materials for review and make reasonable arrangements for alternative learning options should the parent object.

The package resembles curriculum transparency legislation appearing at statehouses across the country, including in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia. The bills — which surfaced amid last year’s increased political derision within local school boards over the teaching of race, diversity and sexuality — are part of a larger push for a by Republicans nationwide ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

Though GOP senators insist the legislation is to empower parents in their children’s education, teachers are concerned the requirements would mandate more duties for an already exhausted workforce while creating an opening for future censorship and book bans to prevent teachings on topics like race and gender.

“Unfortunately, certain politicians seem more interested in following the lead of the national big money groups’ plans to inflame division about what’s taught about race and gender than in presenting coherent policies to engage parents in their local schools,” said Denise Specht, president of statewide teachers union Education Minnesota, in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Jim Davnie of Minneapolis, chairman of the House education committee, said in a statement that the education agenda of House Democrats involves closing opportunity gaps, securing more resources for schools and students, and fixing disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic.

“House Democrats have consistently partnered with parents and families, have always pushed to fully fund our public schools and will continue to do so to deliver the great education and services Minnesota students deserve — free of political agendas,” the statement reads.