The fight for parents’ rights in education continues as the Ohio House of Representatives recently held a hearing over a bill that could provide more academic transparency.
On May 24, along with concerned citizens, spokespeople from FreedomWorks and the Goldwater Institute testified in favor of House Bill 529 in front of the Ohio House’s Primary and Secondary Education Committee. The bill requires both public and nonpublic schools to publish all curriculum and supplemental learning materials to school websites by July 1 of each year. If schools revise the curriculum or supplemental content, they must update the website within 30 days of making revisions. Additionally, once all current learning materials are published, schools will be required to keep that content visible to the public for a minimum of two years.
While Ohio schools—and many other schools across the country—may be required to publish curriculum, what’s often left out of such transparency requirements are supplemental learning materials. As Matthew Beienburg, Director of Education Policy from the Goldwater Institute testified at the hearing, some of the supplemental materials could be divisive content like the 1619 Project.
“Ohio students across the state are not only having this material assigned to them but that in nearly every case, the teachers who are pushing it are doing so without any public discussion, district governing board signoff, or meaningful parental awareness,” Beienburg testified.
“In the wake of several states passing bans on certain tenets of Critical Race Theory for instance, over 4,000 teachers across the country, including over 100 in Ohio alone, publicly pledged to continue teaching their vision of racialized history ‘regardless of the law,’” Beienburg continued. “It is essential, therefore, that parents have the ability to see for themselves what materials are being used in the classroom, regardless of whether it has to do with race, gender, politics, or simply general instruction.”
Other states, like Florida, have put laws in place that are meant to increase transparency and allow public input on school curriculum. But this legislation has been met with some pushback. One law was even labeled as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, though it’s meant to keep sexually explict material out of young children’s classrooms.
In contrast to Florida, Missouri has a policy that intentionally keeps parents from knowing what their kids are exposed to in school, in spite of parents being concerned that their kids are manipulated into thinking they’re transgender.
During his testimony at the hearing, Thomas Hach shared that as a school board member in Ohio, he’s heard many concerns from parents about what their kids are learning. He said that a bill like HB 529 will help establish trust between schools and parents.
“In the area of education, where virtually everyone in our society has spent significant time as a student in a classroom, the public has the experience and ability to be the sanity check on whether something is useful and appropriate to be used as part of a curriculum,” Hach testified.
Amy Kissinger pointed out during her testimony that while Ohio enacted a bill back in 2007 to bring about more transparency, it hasn’t been enough.
“Public school is a supreme bureaucracy, and it is very effective at putting up barriers to parental engagement,” Kissinger said, who has also been a school board member. “It’s very difficult to know what is going on in your child’s experience. I’m mortified that I have to be part of petitioning that it is appropriate for parents to have a greater access to that information. Who cares that we’re paying the bill? These are our babies.”
The bill is supposed to make finding supplemental learning materials easier for teachers since those materials are all published online. Proponents also noted that publishing content shouldn’t take too much additional time for teachers, nor would it be complicated from a technological standpoint.
“This bill can actually be implemented by merely a teacher completing a Google doc and it being posted online,” testified Merissa Hamilton, Grassroots Director at FreedomWorks. “My background is in technology, and it does not take a sophisticated IT system to post that. The technology is already available, it already exists, and it’s very simple to use. So, the good news is that this bill being implemented will be extremely easy for teachers if the school districts decide for it to be.”
Hamilton said that if the bill is enacted, it will be a win for teachers, students, and parents.
Hamilton went on, “We shouldn’t wait until children are exposed to things that are dangerous to them, and only a parent can make that decision.”
The bill is still in committee until the Ohio House reconvenes in November.
You can find bill analyses here and watch the full hearing here.
Learn more about The Goldwater Institute’s resources for academic transparency here.
Wondering how you can make changes in your local school? Here are some action steps:
- Know what is going on with education policy and legislation in your state.
- Speak up for or against issues with your school boards and other elected representatives. If possible, let your voice be heard through the media or op-eds. You can also write a letter to the editor of a publication.
- Organize friends and neighbors to join you in speaking up and insisting on changes to policies.