The Kansas National Education Association and its Olathe chapter, ONEA, came out in opposition to transparency legislation that requires school districts to make curriculum and other materials available for parents to review. A since-deleted tweet encouraged ONEA members to “Please consider contacting representatives and encouraging other friends of neighborhood schools to oppose current ‘transparency’ bills in the Senate Education Committee and the House K-12 Budget Committee.”
“Some teachers unions are now saying the quiet part out loud,” he said. “They don’t want parents to know what their own children are learning in school. This open backlash against transparency demonstrates why families need exit options.”
The Sentinel reached out to KNEA executives Kevin Riemann, Marcus Baltzell, Timothy Graham, and Lauren Ticemiller, as well as KNEA President Sherri Schwanz and ONEA — which shares offices with KNEA — asking why the tweet was deleted.
A recent editorial by Schwanz declared that bills currently in the legislature would prevent teachers from being able to “inspire,” and stating explicitly that “These bills seek to filter student experiences through a partisan lens. Inspiring students requires that educators be free to seek out the “teachable moment” and not fear that doing so may bring punishment upon them or their students. Inspiring students means that the unique nature of the teaching and learning relationship is respected, and so are the individuals at each end of that relationship.”
The Sentinel asked why KNEA and ONEA believe giving parents more information about what their children are being taught is objectionable, and to specify any elements of the transparency legislation they oppose or support.
No response to either inquiry has been received.
ONEA opposes transparency
There are several bills in front of the legislature that have irked union officials. HB 2662, the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act, would require districts to establish parent transparency portals to provide information on materials that are used or made available in schools. SB 363 would require districts to annually publish a list of training materials and activities used for student instruction and teacher professional development at each school in the district on their website. SB 393 requires the same be done for learning materials and activities for students. Finally, HB 2690 would “establish the legislative award for excellence in teaching program to provide merit-based bonuses to teachers in certain school districts, establishing the Every Child Can Read Act to focus on third-grade literacy proficiency and requiring the state department of education to provide summary academic achievement reports.”
Schwanz appeared to take particular umbrage to HB 2662, saying that it would only create more bureaucracy.
“Bills like these purport to create mechanisms for transparency, but those mechanisms already exist,” she wrote. “Stealing time from students that should be spent on teaching and learning to- instead- copy and paste links to learning materials on a website isn’t “transparency.” Two of these bills require posting links to every textbook, novel, media, and any resource of any kind chosen by a teacher to use in their lessons. This is an effort to make casual observers believe these materials are suspect and not already available for any parent to review. They — of course — are.”
However, while those materials may technically be available for parent review, parents now have no way of knowing in advance that the material exists.
Survey shows Kansas parents are concerned
A public opinion poll commissioned by the Sentinel’s owner, Kansas Policy Institute, bears out their extreme frustration. Parents believe they should have the primary say over how their children are educated, with 88% strongly or somewhat agreeing and only 11% expressing some measure of disagreement.
The majority — 57% — are concerned that their children and grandchildren may be exposed to objectionable subject material, and 75% believe taxpayer-funded accounts should be available to parents if their school district isn’t meeting the academic needs of their children.
Poll participants were registered voters who are parents or grandparents of children in Kansas public schools.