Local educators oppose proposed House Bill 266

 

By Jessie Wagoner

 

The Kansas Legislature is currently considering House Bill 2662, which has been dubbed a “parent bill of rights.” However, educators from throughout the state are opposed to the bill, which, if adopted, could cause significant problems for educators and school districts.

Like most bills, it includes several different elements. One of the most concerning aspects of the bill would be requiring teachers to list all of their lesson plans, teaching resources, reading materials, etc. on the district website at the beginning of the year for parents to review. Teachers say this is not realistic, as each day in the classroom is different.

Erica Shook, who resides and previously taught in McPherson Public Schools, is now the director for the Ad Astra Virtual Academy in Buhler. She is a vocal opponent of HB 2662.

“When I taught in McPherson, I had four different classes, six hours a day, and I always had a plan for every class,” Shook said. “And every class had something derail the plan. If the Internet doesn’t work, the plan changes. If the copier doesn’t work, the plan changes. Teachers can have a plan, but you really have no idea what the day is going to look like.”

Students today have access to cell phones, which means they are regularly getting updates on current events throughout the day. A significant current event presents a teaching opportunity—spontaneous learning that teachers must address quickly. There is no way for teachers to know a year in advance of an event so they can notify parents of an upcoming lesson, one they didn’t even know about until moments before.

“With access to phones, students know about events,” Shook said. “As a teacher, you have to kind of stop what you are doing and have conversations about those events before you can move on. There is no way a teacher can account for everything that comes up in a week, let alone a year.”

Another concern with placing all the resources, tests, reading materials and websites online are issues surrounding copyrights. Many resources and materials are copyrighted. Districts would then be participating in copyright infringement by sharing those materials. Additionally, teachers already struggle to combat cheating; placing quizzes and tests online in advance would increase the likelihood of students cheating rather than actually learning the material.

The bill also includes a section regarding review of library materials. This is concerning to educators, as well. As part of public education, teachers advocate for students to have access to diverse collections of literature. This is particularly important for students in minority groups.

“We have lots of kids in McPherson who identify with the LGBTQ population, students who come from diverse backgrounds, students who have experienced abuse and trauma,” Shook said. “Those students need access to books that have characters they can relate to.”

Ultimately, Shook and other teachers say the majority of what is being requested in the bill is already available to parents. Teachers provide class expectations and contact information to each student and family at the beginning of the school year. They readily accept phone calls and emails from parents and are willing to provide information about what is being taught and what resources are available.

“All of the things that are listed as a parents bill of rights, parents already have the right to,” Shook said. “Parents can get information from the teacher or principal now; it is already available to them. They just need to reach out and partner with the teachers.”

Those with an opinion on HB 2662 are encouraged to reach out to their local legislators to provide feedback. Constituents can submit their opposition or support of this bill and any other bills to their legislators via email.