Democrats in the State Senate and House of Representatives have officially voted to kill bill that would have required public schools to put curriculum materials and other school records online for parents to see.
L.D. 1199, “An Act to Provide Transparency in Public School Curricula,” was sponsored by Rep. Rachel A. Henderson (R-Rumford).
The bill would have required school boards to make publicly available online by October 1 of each school year “curriculum and library-related materials,” including teaching materials, a list of required textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, tests, and “a list of books available in the library and the intended reading age of those books.”
“Transparency is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Rep. Henderson.
“We hold law enforcement to a high standard. The entire legislative process is subject to FOIA and FOAA,” she said. “Why on earth wouldn’t we hold the school system, and what’s being taught to our children, to the same standard?”
In February, polling conducted by the Maine Wire and Co/Efficient showed that large bipartisan majorities of Maine voters support the idea of placing school materials on the Internet for parents to see.
The poll revealed that 80 percent of Maine voters surveyed wanted materials placed online, including a majority of self-described liberals and Democrats.
Every Democrat in the Senate voted to kill the school transparency bill.
Rep. Nate Carlow (R-Buxton) was the sole Republican who joined every Democrat in the House in voting against the bill.
Opponents of the bill, including the Maine School Board Association, the Maine Principals’ Association, and the Maine Council for the Social Studies, cited concerns over the feasibility of the October 1 deadline, the potential for restricting teachers’ flexibility, and the erosion of local control in their testimony before the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.
“And while syllabi and materials may generally be planned out for the year, having all materials planned and ready by October 1 is unrealistic,” said Steven Bailey, speaking for the Maine School Board Association.
“Having to publish and stick to a curriculum because it was what was published could stifle a teacher’s ability to meet students where they are,” said Nicole Willard of the Maine Council for the Social Studies in her testimony.
Henderson has said that although she has come to realize that some of the details of the bill may not have been perfect, the concept is incredibly important.
“This isn’t an attack at all on our teachers and school systems, but this is just a voice of advocacy for our parents. Parents absolutely need to have the opportunity to be involved in what their children are doing,” said Henderson.
“We really do have quality teachers, quality people, in my district,” she said. “So the desire to see transparency in our school system is not a reflection of our teachers, not a reflection of the superintendent, any of that. It’s more a reflection of an agenda that’s trying to be pushed on our kids.”