Utah lawmaker abandons controversial school curriculum ‘transparency’ bill

GOP legislator sites ‘coordinated misinformation campaign’

Amid what he called a “misinformation campaign,” a Utah legislator has scrapped his proposal to require Utah public school teachers to post all learning materials and syllabi for each day of instruction for parents to review.

HB234 sponsor Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, said in a statement that due to a "coordinated misinformation campaign" against the bill, he has needed to spend his time "putting out fires" and believes the bill needs more time than is left in the session to pass.

"I strongly believe that this is a topic worth taking the time to get right," Teuscher said.

The decision comes after the bill prompted outcry in the education community.

"This bill is insulting, burdensome and will not succeed in increasing transparency, but will certainly succeed in driving people from our profession," Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Educators Association, has said.

The UEA started an online petition to urge defeat of the bill, which was introduced in the Utah House earlier this week but had not yet been assigned to a committee.

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House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, noted that "a lot of people are misunderstanding" the bill, and that's why Teuscher decided to "push the pause button" to discuss the issue with education stakeholders.

After Teuscher announced he would pull HB234 from consideration, Matthews tweeted: "Yes! Thank you to the powerful voices of educators across the state!"

Teuscher said the intent of HB234 was "to correlate the education that kids are receiving in the classroom with the discussions and education that they're receiving at home at the dinner table. If we can open up transparency and give tools to parents so that they can talk to their kids about what they're learning in the classroom, then they'll get a much more holistic and rounded education."

In his statement on Friday, he said he had hoped the bill would help parents ask their children "prompting" questions about what they learned in school rather than simply asking what they learned in school.

Teuscher said he personally "found this particularly helpful" when he was in high school and his honors English teacher sent him a letter saying he would need to read certain books over the summer. Teuscher said his dad also read that letter and decided to read the books along with his son.

"That summer was one of the most memorable educational experiences of my life," Teuscher said, adding that his relationship with his dad became stronger as they discussed the books.

He said he also hoped the bill would "help alleviate feelings of mistrust between parents and teachers."

"Anger, hostility and accusations around curriculum issues continue to escalate, despite teachers' best efforts to dispel parents' concerns. Though it is fair to say that there are cases where these concerns have been justified, the far majority of teachers are doing an amazing job and really yeoman's work in providing the best education for our kids," Teuscher said.

But he said "without a clear plan for transparency" with parents feeling they have no control over what gets taught, "distrust will continue to damage relations between parents and teachers."

Another bill that has caused a rift with the education community, SB114, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, remains on the lawmakers' desks after it received a favorable committee recommendation Thursday.

The bill would require involving parents on the front end of the curriculum selection process and would allow them to make recommendations to the local school board. The proposed curriculum would be available online for the public to review and then the school board would conduct a public hearing before voting whether to adopt it.

Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner, R-Ogden, told reporters Friday she believes Fillmore, R-South Jordan, worked to "balance interests" in his bill.

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It's "not putting the work on teachers," but on districts, she said.

The bill would also allow teachers to continue using supplemental materials that fit into the curriculum.

"This gives them the flexibility ... and they don't need to do extra work, get approvals to do that, as long as it's consistent with the curriculum content of the area," she said.

"I think people want to make sure there's transparency, as we do, in how many other things in government — we try to make sure there's transparency. And parents care about this. They care, and they want to know," Millner added.

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