Ohio bill would force school curriculum, materials be posted online for parents

(The Center Square) – An Ohio lawmaker wants the state to follow several others across the country and have school districts post their curriculum and instruction materials online to give parents better access to what is being taught in classrooms.

The state teacher’s union, however, believes the idea creates distrust between parents and teachers, while adding to the workload of its members.

House Bill 529, which has yet to have a hearing in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, would require public and private schools to post the information by July 1 each year. It also would require public colleges to post the same things for high school students enrolled in the College Credit Plus Program.

“Sharing this information with parents isn’t going to offend anybody. I think a lot of teachers who have been clamoring for help after the school day ends might find that parents are out there who want to be more involved,” Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, said. “Why don’t we be more transparent with parents and work together to educate our kids and maybe things will be a little better.”

The bill defines instructional materials as textbooks, reading materials, videos, digital materials, websites, and apps, and schools must provide summaries of each instructional course.

Hillyer said the issue came to the forefront during GOP caucus discussions about critical race theory. The bill also would give parents a better sense of each district’s strengths in order to make choices about schools, he said.

“I’m wondering if parents had a better grasp about what’s going on then maybe they would get involved in their child’s education a little sooner or make different decisions for their child,” Hillyer said. “I think most of the schools in Ohio don’t have anything to hide. I think you would quell some of these concerns at school board meetings if you gave people this information upfront, and I think it would help some of the good schools in Ohio stand out.”

Hillyer, who also said he is a school-choice advocate, wrote the bill to apply to public and private schools in an effort to allow parents to make better decisions.

He also said the bill would create an opportunity for teachers to spell out instruction materials and plans for the year in mid-summer, taking steps to eliminate what could be surprises for parents that lead to confrontation.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said the bill is unnecessary and creates hardship in teachers.

“As educators, we know that collaboration with parents is critically important. I don’t think we need a piece of legislation like this to continue encouraging collaboration between parents and educators,” DiMauro said. “The impact of this is another example of what frustrates our members. It’s another thing that feels like big government overreach that micromanages the things that are done in schools. It’s going to take so much time and it seems to actually encourage distrust. It’s going to have a negative impact on people who are already overwhelmed.”

Republicans in California, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana have similar measures under consideration.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing a similar proposal that creates a parent’s bill of rights that deals with public schools. The Georgia measure allows a parent to ask for the educational material from a principal or superintendent. The school official has three working days to provide the material. If the principal or superintendent cannot share the information by then, they must provide the parent with a description of the material and a timeline for its delivery. It must be delivered in 30 days.

School districts would be required to create a process for parents to “object” to the material if they choose. It also would allow parents to opt their children out of sex education.