by Christen Smith
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a measure this week that would require schools to post curriculum online.
Prime sponsor Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Harrisburg, said it’s only an extension of what some districts already do – and gives parents access to what their kids are learning without having to visit a school building in person.
“The curriculum plan, including textbooks, needs to be online for parents to review at any time, and those websites need to be updated each time the curriculum is revised,” he said. “Too many parents have no idea what is being taught until they see their children’s homework.”
But Democrats fear House Bill 1332 comes with ulterior motives and invites more critics to hurl threats at school staff in a time when mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions already have generated chaos and distrust.
“It’s about bringing the fights that start on Fox News to a kindergarten classroom near you,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Pittsburgh. “This legislation is an invitation to the book burners and the anti-maskers to harass our schools and our teachers.”
Three Republicans sided with Democrats in opposing the bill. Other concerns raised included that the requirement was too burdensome and duplicative and that the definition of curriculum in the bill – academic standards to be achieved, instructional materials, assessment techniques and course syllabuses – went too far.
Frankel also noted that posting the information online invites challenges from people who don’t even live in the district.
“If parents really want access to their children’s school books, they already can,” he said. “But if parents aren’t dissatisfied and aren’t protesting, then there’s no reason to invite QAnon supporters from around the country to weigh in our teachers’ choices.”
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, reiterated that schools must already disclose curriculum publicly.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, much of that information, whether schools open, whether schools close, whether they have hand sanitizer and whatever else … has also been provided electronically over the last 18 months,” he told reporters Wednesday. “So this is not really any different.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
– – –
Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.