Parent’s “Right to Choose” Education Bill Presented to Senate Committee
A bill proposing to give parents more access to classroom material was presented to a Senate Committee Wednesday.
On Feb. 1, SB 5024 was presented to the Early Learning & K-12 Education Senate committee, proposing to “establish parents' bill of rights related to their child's public education.”
16th District Rep. Perry Dozier is the key sponsor of this bill and 7th District Sen. Shelley Short is one of the cosponsors.
This bill would require each school district to post assessment results on their website, give parents/guardians access to classroom materials, and amend their accessibility policy to school board meetings according to the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
In the past two years, there have been many versions of this type of bill getting pitched to state legislatures across the country, with approximately 84 bills introduced to 26 state legislatures in 2022 alone.
Dozier told the committee that this is his third attempt bringing this bill to legislature.
“My bill is simple, it is about transparency of information from the school to the parents,” Dozier said. “It is not about parents driving curriculum.”
Dozier said this bill would help create better avenues for parents to access their children’s education and become better acquainted with district policies.
Ranking committee member and 12th District Sen. Brad Hawkins said that recent curriculum mandates have stifled decisions for school boards across the state.
“What I hear a lot from parents [is] they want to go to their local school board and say ‘we disagree with some of the elements of this curriculum,’ and then the school board members say ‘hey, we have to adopt this, it's the law,’” Hawkins said. “I honestly don't even know why the school boards have to take votes on some of these things because they have no choice anyway.”
Senior Committee Assistant for the Ways & Means Senate Committee, Dana Tietjen, shared the memo on parental rights for K-12 education that they drafted for their 2022 interim project.
Tietjen said within the memo, staff researched current state laws and policies that identified existing systems where school district information is communicated to parents.
“These entities have their own websites with information directed at parents, guardians and families which are organized in a variety of ways,” Tietjen said. “School districts often include a link to the student and or parent handbook, which has detailed information on a variety of topics, including many that are in the table of references.”
Dozier said that although this a great resource for parents, he still wants to make each school’s test scores easily accessible for parents.
30th District Sen. Claire Wilson shares that many districts are already informing parents and guardians of their rights and responsibilities, using districts in the Federal Way area as an example.
Committee Chairwoman Lisa Wellman shared how important it was for parents to understand what their rights are in regards to education.
“As we watch all the disinformation that hits our schools, Washington's classrooms are not here to be a political battleground,” Wellman said “We're here for the kids and we're here [to ensure] that each and every scholar comes out of our K 12 system prepared to thrive in a digital economy that is out there.”
Mike Hoover with the Washington State School Directors Association said his association is in support of anything that further clarifies parents’ rights within school systems, but was uncomfortable with the lack of clarity within the bill on what districts would be responsible for.
“We don't actually take policies at the association, we don't make them, we don't mandate what other folks do for example,” Hoover said. “That gives us a little bit of concern.”
Dave Olwell, Laurie Layne, Joann Tolentino, Jeannie Magdua and Julie Barrett with the Conservative Ladies of Washington, Nancy Button, Samantha Field, and Hannah Ordos all testified in support of SB 5024.
Button shared that she resigned from her 20-year teaching career because she did not want to support her district’s policy on gender identity.
“A 10-year-old child in my class decided to identify as transgender and I was required by my principal to refer to my student by her new chosen name and pronouns,” Button said. “When contacted by the child's parents, I was told not to reveal her transgender identity at school and to use her birth name and pronouns.”
Samantha Field said that many parents are pulling their children out of schools due to their distrust in the public education system.
“This bill is a step in the direction of restoring parents' trust in the system of schools,” Field said. “Parents should be able to look online to find what the Smarter Balanced math and reading scores for the school that they are attending.”
Hannah Ordos concurred with Hawkins’ statement on school board policy and feels that discussion on parental rights gets bad press.
“Parents that want to be involved in our kids' education are seen somehow as being 'disruptors,'” Ordos said. “I'd really like for that myth to be busted by having parental rights actually something we shouldn't have to say.”
Julie Salvi with the Washington Education Association said her organization is testifying against this bill due to its potential to increase an educator's daily workload.
Tracy Castro-Gill and Oliver Miska with Washington Ethnic Studies Now also testified against the bill.
Castro-Gill noted that the bill could negatively impact educators of color, and that posting classroom material online without context could create controversy between parents and educators.
“When parents saw my material out of context, I got death threats. I was threatened to be sued, I was called racial slurs, even though my white teaching partner taught the same thing,” Castro-Gill said. “We're starting to see that educators, particularly educators of color, are already starting to self-censor themselves in the classroom because of the anti-critical race theory rhetoric. We know the anti-critical race theory rhetoric is not about critical race theory at all, it's about things that conservative folks disagree with.”
Miska says what is really needed is transparency in the process and that there should be more interconnectedness with the education process.
“This isn't connectedness to the process, this is just connected to the end result of the curriculum,” Miska said. “What we need is parents to be involved in the process of creating curriculum, but not in the process of interrupting teachers in their daily lives.”