ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Senate Republicans on Monday introduced a “Parents Bill of Rights” legislative package, which they say would give parents more access to the program in their children’s schools, reflecting a nationwide GOP push for program transparency.
The package consists of bills that would require schools to have a system in place to notify parents of school activities and prevent schools from withholding information about their child’s welfare or education, would require access to course programs for parents within the first two weeks of the start of classes and provide all instructional materials free of charge to parents who request them for review.
A proposal to prevent school boards from requiring parents to disclose their home addresses before speaking at a meeting and another that would fund an “education savings account” that would help pay for tutoring or alternative education are also in the package.
“The primary goal here is to get parents and schools to engage together, to affirmatively and absolutely recognize that parents are part of this process,” said the Republican Senate education chairman, Roger Chamberlain. “We want a partnership between parents and educators and we want it to be fruitful and productive for the ultimate benefit of children.”
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Current law requires school districts to have a process for parents to request instructional materials for review and to make reasonable arrangements for alternate learning options if the parent objects.
Package looks like program transparency legislation appearing in state houses across the country, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia. The bills – which surfaced in the middle of last year increased political derision within local school boards over teaching about race, diversity and sexuality — are part of a larger push for one by Republicans nationwide ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.
Although GOP senators insist the legislation aims to empower parents in their children’s education, teachers fear the requirements will place more duties on an already exhausted workforce while creating an opening for future censorship and book bans to prevent teachings on topics such as race and gender.
“Unfortunately, some politicians seem more interested in following the example of national big-money groups to stir up division over what is taught about race and gender than in presenting cohesive policies to engage parents in their local schools” said Denise Specht, president of statewide teachers’ union Education Minnesota, in a statement.
Democratic Rep. Jim Davnie of Minneapolis, chairman of the House Education Committee, said in a statement that the House Democrats’ education agenda includes closing opportunity gaps, ensuring more resources for schools and students and to address learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“House Democrats have always worked with parents and families, have always pushed to fully fund our public schools, and will continue to do so to provide the excellent education and services Minnesota students deserve – without a political agenda. “, reads the press release.
(This story corrected the spelling of Rep. Davnie’s last name.)
Mohamed Ibrahim is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
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