Indiana education groups mount opposition to curriculum bill

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Indiana teachers and others are mounting opposition to a House bill that Republican lawmakers say would increase transparency of school curricula, even after Senate leaders decided to effectively abandon their version of the legislation.

The bill would require classroom materials to be posted online and vetted by parent review committees, and restrict teaching about racism and politics.

It would limit what teachers can say in class on sensitive subjects, prohibiting them from using materials that “present any form of racial or sex-stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

Representatives from the Indiana State Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state, joined a coalition of civil rights, faith and public education groups at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday to oppose the bill, which they said aims to censor classroom instruction and place unnecessary additional workloads on educators.

The bill “will stifle future generations, leaving many students without people who look like them in their history books,” said ISTA president Keith Gambill. “It will curb and temper educators’ ability to bring creativity into learning, and place undo burden onto educators in an already challenging environment.”

Marshawn Wolley, with the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, added that the bill wants to stop teachers from talking about racism, limiting education on topics such as slavery and Jim Crow.

“To put my child in a classroom where he will sit and be taught just the facts, excluding racism as a fact of life that Black people face, … in this city, in this state, every day, is unconscionable,” Wolley said.

Republican Rep. Tony Cook of Cicero, who authored the House bill, has said the legislation strives to ensure educators “remain impartial in teaching curriculum” and “ensure that students are free to express their own beliefs and viewpoints concerning curricular materials and educational activities without discrimination.”

In response to teachers’ ongoing criticism, the bill has been amended to expand some definitions of what can be taught about “historical injustices,” and to stipulate that while schools must post class materials online, teachers do not have to upload daily lesson plans.

Cook has been absent from the statehouse this week due to a death in the family, and the bill was withheld from the House floor on Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Bob Behning of Indianapolis, who chairs the House education committee, said Wednesday that the Republican caucus has not discussed the bill since Sunday and that the decision to call the bill is up to Cook, who could return to the Statehouse as early as Thursday.

The bill could be voted on by the full House next week. It’s one of three “education matters” bills proposed by conservative lawmakers in the current session, which they say would give parents more say on what is taught in schools.

House Republicans are pushing ahead with the bill, even after the Senate effectively defeated a similar proposal last week.

The Senate bill, authored by Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin of Noblesville, would have prohibited K-12 schools from requiring a student or employee to “engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of racial or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.” Teachers would also not be allowed to “include or promote” such concepts in class.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said in a statement Friday that the Republican-led Legislature had “determined there is no path forward” for the Senate bill.

Baldwin drew widespread condemnation this month when he said teachers must be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies. He later walked back his comments, saying he meant to say he “unequivocally” condemns Nazism, fascism and Marxism, and that he agrees that teachers “should condemn those dangerous ideologies.”

Some language from Baldwin’s bill were at the heart of another proposal taken up by the Senate education committee on Wednesday.

Bill author Republican Sen. Jim Tomes of Wadesville said his legislation would remove education as a legal protection for public school libraries and public libraries accused of sharing “harmful material” with minors. “Harmful material” is not defined in the new legislation.

The proposal drew more than three hours of testimony and could be advanced to the full Senate next week.

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13 thoughts on “Indiana education groups mount opposition to curriculum bill

  1. God forbid there is transparency to parents regarding their children’s education.

    The indoctrination by fake educators needs a light shined on their ways.

    1. J C B – Parents elect individuals from their communities to represent them on the local school boards, where your highly-desired transparency exists in the form of open meetings where parents can question decisions about what is – or is not – taught in the classroom. What Rep. Cook wants to do is ensure only one perspective is taught to Hoosier kids – a perspective rooted in the early 20th century where whites were in charge and minorities were discriminated against. Now, a century later, it is time for facts to be taught about our history, blemishes and all.

    2. Oh, so teaching the kids to be woke is key.

      Got it.

      Maybe there is more to education than just the subject of history.

      Math, science, etc could be critical to keeping up with the rest of the world. Pretty sure zero accountability for teachers has left us in the dust competitively…

    3. Brent, if you think the school boards provide enough transparency and information to parents on what’s actually going on in the school, you are very wrong. Only the kids and teachers truly know, and if your kids are like many, the parents can barely get them to tell them what they did in school each day.

    4. “Woke” is a synonym for “alert.” I guess some parents don’t want their kids to be alert. If parents can’t communicate with their kids about what’s going on in their classes, that as much on the parents as anyone else. Too many parents want schools to babysit their kids all day long, and do not take an interest in or care about their kid’s education. Seems the only time parents show up at a school board meeting is when Trumpists spread misinformation about what is being taught (i.e., “critical race theory” is not taught in elementary or secondary schools – it is a subject in college). That help’s explain why some in the state legislature want candidates for school boards to declare their political affiliation. It’ll make it easier to identify and cancel any with a “D” behind their name. If everyone is so distrusting of public education, they need to pay for private education or, better yet, home school their kids so they are really protected from the real world.

  2. @JCB – I’m confused what you are upset about. That we aren’t teaching our kids enough about math, science, etc.? Do you think we should invest more in our public schools so that we can keep up competitively with the rest of the world? That would require additional tax revenue from people in the state, investing in our community – which I think is a great idea!

    If you have concerns about what your kids are learning in school, you can talk to their teachers, the school board, elected local officials – I promise you that educators are in the business because they love kids, teaching, educating, etc., and want to do best for the kids. There isn’t much money/power, etc. in teaching, obviously, and there isn’t an evil “WOKE” (whatever that means) power that all the teachers of the world are secretly a part of.

  3. Indiana public entities are subject to … “sunshine laws”. Minutes of meetings and all records are owned by and available to citizens because it is taxpayers that fund the organizations/entities. Education in Indiana accounts for the second largest expenditure category after healthcare in the state budget. It is roughly a 9 billion dollar expenditure funded by taxes. I have confidence that the curriculums that are taught will bear up under the scrutiny of availability to the public. Opposing such transparency raises suspicions that you have something to hide. Nobody expects there will be agreement by everyone that what is taught is best or even appropriate. But transparency and the resulting dialogue and debate about what has value to be taught in public schools can only improve education outcomes. Perhaps education should focus more on what most would agree is important. Demonstrated excellency and proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics, science, language arts, and technology come to mind. The leaders in China focus on such instruction in China, Japan and many other nations. We would do well to keep up.