A bill intended to provide greater transparency of what is being taught to students in public schools stalled in the House Education Committee on a tie vote Thursday.

HB344 called for local school boards to establish curriculum transparency policies but was optional.

Opponents said teachers viewed the bill as punitive and suggests they cannot be trusted, while supporters said it would help quell controversies because parents could find out ahead of time what their children are being taught.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, amended the legislation encouraging district and charter school boards to establish policies regarding “the content and method of student instruction that generally promotes transparency to parents and students.”

Teuscher said many lawmakers have been approached by constituents “with concerns about what may or may not be taught in classrooms.”

Teuscher said he’s come across some instances where administrators needed to work with teachers to ensure what they’re teaching aligns with the district’s or charter school’s curriculum.

“Generally, I think the concerns come from a lack of transparency. Parents simply just don’t know what’s happening in the classroom and so when they hear a story here or there, and maybe it gets exaggerated, they tend to believe that. So if we can dispel those myths by providing more transparency of what actually is being taught in the classroom, we’ll be in a much better place as a state,” he said.

Mark Clement, vice president of the Utah School Boards Association and an Alpine School Board member, said HB344 is “very transparent” to educators.

“They understand very clearly that it’s punitive and it will hurt teacher morale. Although the representative has mentioned that these are optional things, they come across to teachers as being very punitive,” Clement said.

The bill failed to advance to the House on a 6-6 vote, with some Republican committee members joining Democrats in opposition.

Some committee members said the proposed law, although not a mandate, would add to the workloads of school boards that have to develop numerous policies to address legislation passed by lawmakers.

But others questioned why HB344 did not confine itself to content. It also asked that district and charter school transparency policies include educators’ methods of student instruction.

“It kind of feels like the difference between what the materials are versus how they’re delivered,” said Rep. Karen Peterson, R-Clinton.

Utah lawmaker abandons controversial school curriculum ‘transparency’ bill

Nichole Mason, president of the Utah Parents United, said when she wanted to know what objectives her child’s teacher was covering in class, she had to appeal to the school principal for a meeting with principal and the educator.

“They both looked at me sideways and said, ‘That’s just such a strange request.’ So what parents are saying is, we want to know what is being taught to our children. I think that’s that’s easy and I think we need a standardized process so everyone’s on the same page,” Mason said.

Others said many teachers already send out information at the start of the school term, welcome discussions with parents at parent-teacher conferences or by appointment or place the information on Canvas, a web-based learning management system used in some K-12 schools.

Emily Bastian, a parent in the Nebo School District who serves on school community council and is a PTA member, said the message behind HB344 is not that parents can advocate for their children.

“This is sending a message to the teachers that we don’t trust them,” she said. Bastian urged lawmakers to instead run a resolution encouraging more parental involvement in schools.

This is the second session that Teuscher has sponsored a curriculum transparency bill. Last year, he pulled the legislation amid what he called a “coordinated misinformation campaign.”

That bill, HB234, sought to require Utah public school teachers to post all learning materials and syllabi for each day of instruction for parents to review.