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Kansas parental rights legislation was transformed into an unrelated bill

Rep. Kristey Williams said requiring school districts to list materials online each year would not hurt teachers. (Sherman Smith/Kansas reflector)

Schools would be required to set up online parent portals

By RACHEL MIPROReflector Kansas

TOPEKA — A revised form of parental rights legislation would require school districts to create an online portal for parents and publish the district curriculum annually.

The legislation was advanced during a hearing of the K-12 education budget committee on Wednesday, despite questions from the committee’s lawmakers. The legislation was added as an amendment to House Bill 2271, a separate student enrollment regulation bill for districts.

“They just weren’t related,” Rep. Valendia Winn, a Kansas City Democrat, said of the original bill and the amendments. “This is my problem. It’s clear they’re not related, but we can put anything into an amendment and you can get your majority votes.”

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Susan Estes, a Wichita Republican, requires school districts across the state to create parent portals and include copies of non-academic tests, questionnaires, surveys or exams.

Schools should also list district-wide curriculum, including textbooks and required reading, updating the information annually or whenever substantial changes have been made. Under the amendment, maintaining information will be the responsibility of the school district, not individual teachers.

Congresswoman Mari-Lynn Poskin, a Democrat from Leawood, said she opposed the amendment because members of the public were not given a chance to express their views.

“I’m just concerned that it just came out of nowhere and that we haven’t allowed districts to evaluate what kinds of problems or problems it might cause them,” Poskin said.

Committee Representative Kristey Williams, a Republican from Augusta, said she didn’t think anyone would oppose the amendment and believed the portal would actually make things easier for teachers.

“He’s having his discussion right now,” Williams said. “It is not a complicated thought to have or publish your resume. I don’t know of any teacher or school district who wouldn’t want parents to know about the curriculum.

The language of the bill is similar to previous attempts at a bill of parental rights. Last session, one form of the bill was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly. The original form would have allowed parents to peruse materials in class, speak at school board meetings, and contest the use of library books.

Another bill heard in this legislative session would allow parents to withdraw their children from class or programs they deem problematic without affecting the student’s academic achievement. Such a bill would allow parents to object to any educational material or activity that they believe could harm the student’s or parent’s beliefs, values, or principles.

Critics said both forms of the legislation would make teachers’ jobs more stressful and promote mistrust in school districts and public education.

Representative Brad Boyd, an Olathe Democrat, questioned the need for the legislation.

“From my point of view, I just think this is a solution looking for a problem,” Boyd said. “I have kids at all levels in school, high school, middle school and elementary school, and I can tell you, our teachers and our parents, they do a really great job of communicating.”

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