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Educators Targeted With Bad Laws

Educators Targeted With Bad Laws

So many bad bills are being worked in Topeka right now, deceptively under the guise of "Transparency" and "Parents' Rights." On Saturday, we discussed potential impacts of such legislation on Blue Valley's cornerstone AP curriculum. Today, we'll examine just one way our outstanding teachers are being targeted.

The KS House K-12 Education Budget Committee recently approved HB 2662, the so-called “parents' bill of rights and academic transparency act.” (Senate Education had a similar bill that did not advance out of committee, but could be added onto other legislation later in the session.)

HB 2662 codifies “rights” to access a variety of information that is **already available** to parents and the general public from school districts across Kansas. Parts of the bill smack of posturing and grandstanding by certain legislators, including Blue Valley-area Rep. Sean Tarwater, who sits on K-12 Ed. Budget.

But HB 2662 goes well beyond “enforcing” what’s already being done by school districts. The bill mandates a new, unmanageable workload for teachers, yet another unfunded mandate for districts, and usurps local control by elected school boards. It also incorrectly asserts that parents do not already have access to information about what their children are learning in school - and the right to request alternative assignments.

“Rights” and “transparency” are not lacking in Blue Valley - nor any school district in Kansas that we can find.

Blue Valley Schools curriculum is already detailed on the district website - grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject - including the ways in which curriculum addresses Kansas State Department of Education Focus Standards. District test assessment and performance data is right there, too. Parents/guardians have online access to view assignments, classroom information, and grades. They receive regular emails from teachers and principals, weekly school newsletters, and have the ability to look at their student’s laptop. Each BV school website offers in-depth information, down to breakfast and lunch menus! Back-to-school nights and parent/teacher conferences are offered; parents can email and call teachers, too. (PTOs are almost always looking for volunteers, which is another great way for parents to connect with their children’s schools.) Any district patron can attend School Board meetings and even sign up to speak. Parents and patrons can serve on district committees.

HB 2662 operates under the false premise that parents do not have “rights” and public schools lack “transparency.” The bill therefore requires that all K-12 public school educators in Kansas compile, publish, and continually update sourced lists of ALL learning materials used in their classes. This exhaustive listing of every single educational resource, syllabi, textbooks, worksheets, classroom library books, magazines, learning activities and games, instructional flash-cards, videos, posters - including the author, organization, and website address for each item - would have to be posted, by teacher, by subject, in a special “transparency portal” accessible to the general public…by June 1st…for the upcoming academic year. That’s 2.5 MONTHS BEFORE the start of school. How can teachers prepare comprehensive, in-depth lesson plans for students they haven’t even met yet?

TESTS and EXAMINATIONS would also have to be published…by June 1st…for THE COMING YEAR. Ummm….what teacher would be willing to publish their tests and exams in advance?!

Any parent knows that no public school has final enrollment for the upcoming academic year by June 1st. Teachers do not have class lists, nor can they fully anticipate the various educational needs of each incoming student. Some teaching positions are not even filled by that time. And no teacher worth their salt will be publishing tests in advance. Who wrote this legislation?

Teachers spend considerable time creating and updating lesson plans to meet each child where they are. Yet, under HB 2662…

If ANY teacher, in ANY classroom, at ANY Kansas public school, at ANY time of the year wanted to introduce ANY new resource to help even one student improve or enrich their learning - that teacher would have to immediately update the “transparency portal” with the new, sourced information. If ANY item is found to have been left off the portal, or not added in a timely manner, districts are subject to lawsuits filed by ANYone, not just parents. Why would Kansas lawmakers want to pass legislation encouraging lawsuits against our public schools?

Most importantly: Why would parents want teachers consumed with constantly updating a “transparency portal” - and working in fear of potential lawsuits - versus actually teaching their children?

(HB 2662 also provides no funding for its mandates…so it’s another “Follow The Money” moment for us. Each school district would have to absorb the cost of creating and maintaining its “transparency portal” - either using current staff **or outsourcing** the work. Hmmm…. We’ll be looking at what types of private businesses and investors might stand to profit from building and maintaining the online portals required by HB 2662.)

Blue Valley parents know the vast majority of our educators are innovative, responsive to student needs, and continually seeking ways to improve classroom learning. Do we want our excellent Blue Valley teachers teaching…or doing data entry every day? How many teachers would buckle under the strain of an _entirely new category of work_ imposed by non-educators in Topeka? Why are state lawmakers making decisions that will dramatically impact our school district - when that is, in fact, the role of our Blue Valley School Board and elected State Board of Education?

HB 2662 is more complex than we’ve outlined here. In fact, it’s another whole dumpster fire. But the component of the bill that intentionally increases educator workloads and mandates “transparency portals” is ridiculous enough to merit your attention. We will be watching, and reporting on, this bill and others that will impact our Blue Valley Schools (and your kids, and your property values) as the legislative session continues.


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