By Judith Roberts
Educators and parents across the parish voiced concerned this week about House Bill 75, which currently states it would require each public school governing authority to post on its website information relative to instructional materials and activities for each school under its jurisdiction.
Many teachers and parents understood that this would include lesson plans, curriculum and basically anything used in the classroom – and that all this information would need to be uploaded during their summer break before they even began the school year.
State Representative Lance Harris, who authored the bill and is the education chair for the House of Representatives, said he thought there had been a lot of misinformation about the bill put out on social media.
“This bill is about transparency for parents,” Harris said. “As a representative, I believe parents should have easy access to this information.”
He said he thought one part of Paragraph A on page 1 needed to be amended to clarify some issues that had arisen, such as mentioned above, but the original goal of the bill was to add information such as a syllabus and textbook information to a school’s website for parents to easily find.
“We want to have a link on the school’s website that takes you to the curriculum,” he said. “We’re not trying to micromanage the teachers…I will not allow this bill to be a burden on our hard-working teachers.”
He said this was a way to strengthen parents, students and the community.
“Parents can see what their children will be learning,” he said. “Parents are demanding it.”
Hayley Smith, a teacher in Allen Parish, wrote about HB 75 in a Facebook post Monday that was shared more than 3,000 times – and by many Lincoln Parish residents. She said she didn’t understand why the bill was needed in the first place.
“Our entire curriculum is accessible on the Louisiana Believes website,” Smith said. “I’ll admit – as teachers, we have complained very loudly to the state department that it isn’t a user-friendly website, and it is tough to navigate or find what you’re looking for. But that information is already available.”
Smith said teachers are already told what to teach by the state department.
“So if parents are finding that what is being taught in the classrooms might be developmentally inappropriate or inoffensive, then the issue would not be transparency between the schools, teachers or school boards – the issue is transparency between the state Department of Education and the parents within our state,” she said.
Lincoln Parish resident Caty Simmons also said that she believed this bibliographic information Harris wants to be easily accessible is already available.
“Where is this a problem?” she said. “All of this information is already publicly available. If it’s about what books are being read – that is sent out at the beginning of the year anyway. The literature the students read aligns with state standards.”
Amanda Robertson, a former Lincoln Parish teacher who shared Smith’s Facebook post, said even if the bill is amended, she does not believe it is needed.
“At the beginning of the year, you overcommunicate with parents with standards for the year and books you’ll be reading,” Robertson said. “I feel like teachers are taught to do that – to overcommunicate with parents, send out newsletters, call, text, use Google Classroom. I feel they already do that. If that’s what this bill says, it’s already out there.”
Lincoln Parish’s State Representative, Chris Turner, said he talked to Harris, who said there was a misunderstanding with the bill.
“In no way was he trying to add a burden to the teachers,” Turner said. “He’s amending the wording in the bill to fix that so the teachers won’t have to do all that extra work.”
Turner said he understood the bill to require textbooks and syllabi to be added to the school websites, something that school boards would have final say over.
He added that the bill was still being amended, and he would watch to see what the amendment ended up saying. He also urged any Lincoln Parish resident who had questions or concerns to contact him at HSE012@legis.la.gov.
“The bill may change, and I don’t know if I’ll support it in the final stage,” Turner said. “I’m not in favor of adding extra work to the teachers. Period.”
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