Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) this week vetoed legislation that would have directed school districts to publish their curricula online.
State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Harrisburg) sponsored the bill to provide a “standardized, simple and user-friendly” means for residents to review the general lesson plans and the titles of textbooks to which children in their districts are subject. New or revised plans would have had to appear online within 30 days of their approval. The representative has observed that many parents have publicly voiced frustration about their inability to ascertain their kids’ curricula ahead of time, with some speaking to him directly about the issue.
Lewis’ proposed law would have required districts to show on their websites the lesson plans and the textbooks anticipated for use for every grade and subject area. The representative said during floor debate that he believed that, with today’s heightened use of electronic communication, curricula should be viewable via the web.
The desire for such transparency has swelled in recent years, as schools have begun teaching concepts related to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which posits that American institutions are laced with racism even somewhat irrespective of the views of those who now lead those institutions. While many educational bureaucrats have held firm to the line that CRT is not taught in K-12 education, the “diversity” and “anti-racism” policies some Pennsylvania districts have openly pursued emanate directly from CRT.
Lewis has stated that he nonetheless hoped his bill would address the full gamut of concerns parents have regarding the instruction their children receive.
“This legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict truthful instruction and censor content reflecting various cultures, identities, and experiences,” Wolf wrote in a message to the legislature. “My Administration is committed to crafting a safe learning environment for all students, and we will not take part in this dangerous and harmful imposition.”
Via Twitter, Lewis was equally blunt in his reaction to the governor’s veto.
“Gov #Wolf fails the ‘straight face’ test,” Lewis tweeted. “This issue became ‘political’ after some #schoolboards refused to release #curricula and/or lied about textbooks. So, the info Isn’t available, & this Veto makes the problem more political. I’ll sign it!”
#HB1332 “Gov #Wolf fails the “straight face” test. This issue became “political” after some #schoolboards refused to release #curricula and/or lied about textbooks. So, the info Isn’t available, & this Veto makes the problem more political. I’ll sign it!” @AndrewLewisPA #Parents pic.twitter.com/O2gJJyCv0s
— Guy for Governor (@GUYforGOV) December 22, 2021
In a response to Lewis’s tweet, Sharon C. Ward, a sometime advisor to both Wolf and the school district of Philadelphia, called the central Pennsylvanian’s bill a “witch hunt” and asked, “What are you going [to] actually do for kids and for schools?” She did not explicate how informing parents about their kids’ curriculum amounts to a witch hunt.
Wolf cites teachers union opposition to the legislation and purported to find the measure unnecessarily duplicative, given existing state regulations meant to ensure parents can view lesson plans upon request.
“The onerous requirements of this bill fall on educators who should be focused on critical issues such as addressing learning loss, managing the impact of the pandemic on students, and working through staffing shortages,” the governor said. “Many education stakeholder groups voiced significant concerns and opposition to this bill, including its underlying purpose, the lack of need and its burdensome impact.”
Some Pennsylvania parents have however protested that while school administrators may be required to make curricula available to parents who ask for them, some of those administrators resort to evasion tactics, making the documents hard if not impossible to obtain.
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