A Silly and Unnecessary Ballot Measure, A Confusion Campaign

What’s the real intent in this ballot initiative filing by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and Colorado House Rep Tim Geitner?

https://leg.colorado.gov/content/initiatives/initiatives-blue-book-overview/initiatives-filed

Educational Materials Under the Colorado Open Records Act

Last month we posted:  “Banning Books and Colorado Legislation HB22-1066” http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/banning-books-colorado-legislation-hb22-1066/

We noted then that “Along with book bans, there has also emerged a growing trend in “Curriculum Transparency.”  At the time, Rep. Geitner’s bill Public Education Curriculum And Professional Development Information, HB22-1066 had not yet gone before the House Education Committee.  That bill died in the committee March 3rd, and was promptly followed by a filing with the state’s Legislative Council Staff by Jon Caldara/Independence Institute and Representative Tim Geitner for a proposed ballot measure (scheduled for a review and comment hearing March 18th.) Their proposed ballot measure is intended to do the same thing as Geitner’s bill HB22-1066.  The filing also prompted some recent posts on social media and stories from news outlets such as Colorado Newsline and CPR education reporter Jenny Brundin.

In light of Caldara’s and Geitner’s efforts to push this legislation, we decided to check-in with a few education professionals to make sure we weren’t missing something.   

First, we checked in with our State School Board Director Karla Esser and here’s what she shared:

What public school students need to know and be able to do at a minimum is posted on the CDE website under the Standards. This website is written for parents who want to know what their child will learn in each grade level for each subject https://www.cde.state.co.us/standardsandinstruction/guidestostandards

Districts must teach to the standards, but the local school board approves the actual curriculum used by any district. On top of this, most districts/schools post their textbooks on their websites, so parents know what each grade is using. This is a common practice, not a state requirement. For example, Jeffco Schools has a tab on their website where parents can look at curriculum and textbooks by grade and subject area. https://jeffcopublicschools.org/academics/curriculum

Beyond these measures, most teachers, even in elementary school, send home a newsletter letting parents know what is coming up and what students have accomplished. Schools also have parent-teacher conferences, math nights, curriculum nights, and literacy nights if parents want more information.”

We also checked in with The Colorado Association of School Boards(CASB), of which most of the state’s school district boards are members. https://www.casb.org/about-casb  CASB recommends model policies that many districts have adopted which outlines their curriculum adoption process. While these policies are not required by law, some districts adopt their own policies which are similar, and some districts adopt policies that are broader in scope and do not specifically state instructional materials shall be available for inspection.

 “The district’s curriculum shall be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the curriculum and educational programs are effective and aligned with the district´s academic standards and educational objectives. Curriculum review committees shall include administrators, teachers, parents, accountability members and others deemed appropriate by the Board or superintendent” (emphasis added), and IJ states that “All textbooks, library materials and other instructional resources and materials shall be available for inspection by students’ parents/guardians.”

And, we wanted to hear directly from an educator, so we checked in with our recently retired and highly acclaimed Jeffco educator Stephanie Rossi.  Here is Stephanie’s feedback:

“Parents can already request all the items (curriculum, reading lists, assignments) that are part of a course; the syllabus I prepared listed all the materials I used in my course, how I graded and additional resources that I used in my class. Parents were required to sign off and it was returned to me, and I kept those signed forms all year. The syllabus also included a schedule for the course and how the course would be run. This ballot measure is not necessary as parents can request this information right now.“

Confirming that parents who want this info have only to ask, or go to the school or district website – and in most instances, teachers eagerly provide it to parents at the beginning of the school year so parents can be supportive of their student’s class work, we have to wonder:

What is Caldara’s and Geitner’s real motive and why so much effort to put this into law?   

As reported in this Vox article (Feb. 10, 2022) Why Book Banning is Back https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22914767/book-banning-crt-school-boards-republicans

“There is currently a broader move on the American right against what they see as out-of-control “wokeness” in American education. Activist groups like Moms for Liberty, think tanks like the Goldwater Institute, and Republican politicians across the country have all focused considerable resources to push for greater censorship in K-12 schools.”

It would appear, groups such as those mentioned in the above article are seeking easier access to education materials used in public schools. Based on what we’ve shared above, there’s nothing prohibiting parents access to any of that material now. It’s almost as if the sponsors of the bill want to imply that there is by attempting to fix a problem that does not exist. Aside from piling a lot more work onto the shoulders of already overworked, overloaded, exhausted, and underpaid educators, it’s unclear what else the sponsors could hope to accomplish other than use this for their campaign rallying cry that they support parental rights.

From Colorado Newsline:   

Colorado group to file school ‘transparency’ ballot measure linked to national anti-equity campaigns

https://coloradonewsline.com/briefs/colorado-school-transparency-ballot-measure-anti-equity/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=f28d9dd0-0a70-4f7c-90c3-7267373bd8a9

HB-1066’s provisions resembled those of model legislation released in December by the Manhattan Institute and co-authored by activist Christopher Rufo, who praised Geitner’s efforts to bring the “curriculum transparency” movement to Colorado.

Rufo is among the leaders of a national conservative movement that has crusaded against a broad spectrum of policies ranging from diversity trainings and anti-bullying programs to teachings about the centrality of slavery in U.S. history — often lumped together by opponents under the umbrella of “critical race theory,” a previously obscure graduate-level academic term with little connection to K-12 curricula.

We hope people see this for what it really is:

“The strategy here is to use a non-threatening, liberal value — ‘transparency’ — to force ideological actors to undergo public scrutiny,” Rufo wrote on Twitter last month.

More reading on Curriculum Transparency: 

The Merrow Report –  https://themerrowreport.com/2022/03/07/parents-rights-the-war-on-public-schools/

“…what’s happening now has very little to do with education and far more to do with politics.  Republicans feel that being ‘pro-parent’ is a winning position, even though barely 20% of households have school age children.  I don’t think most Republican politicians really care whether parents dig deeply into curriculum. What they hope is that the other 80%–those without children–will be outraged at the idea of meddling teachers indoctrinating America’s children. Their goal is for the other 80% to go to the polls and vote Republican.

 

via GIPHY