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Senate, Assembly Education committees to jointly hear CRT, curriculum transparency bills next Wednesday

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue | 0 comments

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Alberta Darling, and the Assembly Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, will hold a joint public hearing next Wednesday (Aug. 11) on a pair of bills (AB 411 and SB 411) that purport to address Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools as well as a pair bills (AB 488 and SB 463) that aim to to address curriculum transparency.  The hearing will take place at 10:00 AM in Room 412 East of the State Capitol. 

According to the public hearing notice, those testifying only need to fill out one hearing slip in order to testify before the joint committee.  In addition, time limits may be imposed to allow as many registrants as possible an opportunity to testify.

The WASB Government Relations Team provided a preview of these bills in a previous post.  Information about these bills is also provided below.

Assembly Bill 411 and Senate Bill 411

The bills most directly linked to CRT by proponents are Assembly Bill 411 and Senate Bill 411, a pair of identical companion bills. These bills would prohibit the teaching of race or sex stereotypes and would prohibit certain concepts from being taught in public schools and charter schools, with violations resulting in a loss of 10 percent of state funding. These bills also require all curricula used in a school district or charter school to be posted online.

An analysis of these bills prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau states:

This bill prohibits race or sex stereotyping in 1) instruction provided to pupils
in school districts and independent charter schools; and 2) training provided to
employees of school boards and independent charter schools. Under the bill, a school
board or the operator of an independent charter school is prohibited from allowing
a teacher to teach pupils race or sex stereotyping in any course or as part of any
curriculum and is prohibited from requiring an employee to attend a training that
teaches, advocates, acts upon, or promotes race or sex stereotyping. Among the
concepts that are prohibited from being taught under the bill are the following: that
one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex and that an individual,
by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the
past by other individuals of the same race or sex. The bill provides that the state
superintendent of public instruction must withhold 10 percent of state aid
distributions from a school board or operator that violates these prohibitions. The
bill also provides that a parent or guardian of a student may bring a claim against
a school district or operator of a charter school for violation of the prohibitions.

The bill also requires each school board to post all curricula used in schools in
the school district on the school district’s Internet site and, if a school board
maintains an Internet site for an individual school, on the individual school’s
Internet site. If an Internet site is maintained for an independent charter school, the
bill requires the authorizer of the independent charter school to ensure that all
curricula used in the independent charter school are posted on the independent
charter school’s Internet site. Under the bill, upon request, a school board or
independent charter school operator must provide a printed copy of any curriculum
that it is required to post on its Internet site, at no cost to the requester.

The other two bills on the joint hearing agenda are Assembly Bill 488 and Senate Bill 463. These identical companion bills would require school boards to post online information on learning materials used in pupil instruction and update that online information at a minimum of twice per year.  The bill would allow any district resident to sue the district for non-compliance and, if successful, to recover up to $15,000 in attorney fees.

An analysis of these bills prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau states:

This bill requires each school board to post on the home page of its Internet site
information related to learning materials and educational activities used in pupil
instruction in the school district and any procedure or policy in effect that applies to
the documentation, review, or approval of such learning materials or educational
activities. Under the bill, “used in pupil instruction” means that a learning material
or educational activity is 1) assigned, distributed, or otherwise presented to pupils
in a course for which pupils receive credit, 2) assigned, distributed, or otherwise
presented to pupils if use of the learning material or participation in the educational
activity is required by the school, 3) assigned, distributed, or otherwise presented to
pupils and at least a majority of pupils in a grade level are expected to use the
learning material or participate in the educational activity, 4) among learning
materials from which pupils are required to select one or more materials, if the
available selection of learning materials is restricted to specific titles, or 5) created
by the school board or a teacher employed by the school board, including lesson plans,
presentations, and videos. The bill requires each school board to include in its list
of learning materials and educational activities 1) bibliographic information
necessary to identify each listed learning material and educational activity, 2) the
full text or a copy of a learning material or educational activity created by the school 
board or a teacher employed by the school board, and 3) a link to curricula adopted
by the school board to comply with state law.

Under the bill, a school board must update the list of learning materials and
educational activities at least twice each school year and must notify parents and
guardians each time the list is updated. The bill specifies that one update must occur
before the start of the school term and one update must occur before January 15 of
the applicable school year. The bill also requires the school board to ensure that the
list remains available to the public on its Internet site for at least five years.
Finally, the bill allows a school district resident to bring an action in circuit
court to compel a school board to comply with the requirements created in this bill.
Under the bill, the court must award reasonable attorneys fees, up to $15,000, to the
school district resident if he or she prevails in the action.

 

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