Democrats fail to suspend Senate GOP education bill of rights for K-12 public schools

TOPEKA – Senator Cindy Holscher has opposed legislation enshrining in state law a bill of educational rights that guarantees public school parents the opportunity to pre-screen all curriculum materials, to potentially censor or ban library books and begin to lay the groundwork for civil rights challenges.

The Overland Park Democrat’s disrespect for the contents of Senate Bill 496 led her to propose an amendment requiring one of the state’s 165 lawmakers to volunteer for a week at a public school or consult six education professionals before introducing a bill that would influence the funding or the education program. . His amendment was deemed irrelevant to the bill placing into state law a dozen parenting rights related to education.

“We seem to have a plethora of bills this session, again, that seem to have a disconnect with the reality of what’s going on in our public schools,” Holscher said.

She said the problem may be that only five of 40 senators and fewer than 20 of 125 representatives have children enrolled in Kansas public elementary or high schools.

Senator Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Louisbourg and chair of the Senate Education Committee, said she didn’t need to volunteer in a classroom to understand the need to affirm in law the key role parents in the education of children. She said local school boards had unduly limited the speaking rights of disgruntled parents, including Salina residents unhappy with library books containing profanity, vulgarity and material inappropriate to be read aloud in a adult frame.

She said the Senate bill would also guarantee parents the right to see their child’s educational and medical records held by school districts. Audits by legislative staff found Kansas had school districts with extremely weak computer security systems to protect that private information, she said.

“When I read that bill of rights,” Baumgardner said, “I don’t see anything ugly. I don’t see harassment. What we hear, in some ways, I think, from the alarmists, c “It’s going to be the destruction of public education in our state. It’s not.”

The bill was due for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday, while the House worked on an alternative version of a bill of parental rights.

Brittany Jones of the faith-based organization Kansas Family Voice previously told Baumgartner’s committee that the bill would leave parents in no doubt about the right to direct their children’s education, morals and religion. She said the legislation should be a wake-up call for parents who should be better informed about classroom and library materials, speak out more at public school board meetings and do more to defend the provisions. anti-discrimination federal civil rights law, she said. .

Opponent Michael Poppa of the Mainstream Coalition said the bill was created by outside groups seeking to play an outsized role in shaping K-12 education policy in Kansas. . He said the bill created a platform to ban the books and urged lawmakers to “please burn this bill”.

Some requirements that would be imposed on educators by the Senate bill were adopted by a portion of school districts, but compliance was not universal. If the legislation survives the session, school districts would be expected to develop policies adhering to the bill of rights.

The bill, introduced in February by Sen. Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, resembled proposed legislation in other states touching on issues related to vaccines, inclusive education, culture war and treatment for cancer. ‘story. Erickson, who has spent about 20 years in public education, said opponents speaking out against the bill are unwittingly explaining why Kansas should make the school system more transparent.

Lenexa Sen. House Democratic leader Dinah Sykes said parents undoubtedly have a central role in raising their children. But, she said, the bill advocated by Baumgardner, Erickson and other Senate GOP members was not warranted.

“This bill is not a parent’s bill of rights. This bill is a bully’s handbook,” Sykes said. “Children deserve an honest and accurate education that allows them to learn from our past and help create a better future. This bill opens the door to politicians who ban books and programs simply because some people find them uncomfortable.

Baumgardner said the transparency movement is about parents trying to figure out which direction the state’s public schools are headed. She said the bill made it clear that public school educators had nothing to do with students’ religious training or beliefs. She said school officials should not discourage students from referring to Christmas vacation when teachers refer to it as winter vacation.

“There are children who have religious beliefs,” Baumgardner said. “When we talk about December 25, we are talking about Christmas.”

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