Education "transparency bill" overreaches

Will Buss
Will Buss

If you have been reading this column, then you may have read that I got married last year and became a (step)father to three children. Overnight, and throughout the past year, I have been introduced and initiated to the responsibilities of parenthood.

One of those is the regular communication my wife and I have with our kids’ teachers. Aside from parent-teacher conferences, we are regularly in touch with the teachers through email and are kept apprised of their classroom activities.

We live in Iowa, where Gov. Kim Reynolds has been recently rubbing educators the wrong way with an overreaching proposal calling for all teachers to post every lesson plan six months in advance so all parents can view and review what their child or children are discussing and learning in Iowa classrooms. The legislation also requires school districts to provide parents with a course syllabus and a list of all instructional materials to be used by each teacher in the classroom.

This legislation places an undue burden on teachers and school administrators to document every discussion point and lesson plan. This legislation proposes to add much time and energy to teachers’ responsibilities through an unfunded mandate that would exceed $16 million.

This bill has come to be known as the ‘transparency bill,” which is a misnomer, as far as my experience goes as an Iowa parent who sends children to public schools in the Hawkeye state. The bill also proposes to give parents the option to question curriculum or any materials available to students in school libraries.

But this transparency is already there. Such a challenge recently happened in our school district, where there is a process in place that allowed the parent to challenge a book that is available to fourth graders in the school library. The parent was invited to make their case against the book before a special committee and the school board.

According to the Iowa Teaching Standards, teachers need to “demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness in adjusting to meet students’ needs.” This bill minimizes that trust the state places on teachers as talented professional educators and reduces them to pawns of an impulsive state legislature and governor. This proposed layer of government intervention is unnecessary and intrusive. As an educator, myself, I also find it greatly insulting that our governor does not trust its teachers and administrators to make decisions about what to teach students.

This effort seems another tactic to make teachers the enemy, especially when educators and other purveyors of facts are under attack because inconvenient truths do not align with a someone’s point of view. Since when is teaching the truth “indoctrination”?

Reynolds and her fellow Iowa Republicans are politicizing public education across the state and are in no way working to improve it. The school system is already transparent and provides parents with much information about what their child is learning in the classroom. We don’t need this law to interfere with that.

Will Buss teaches broadcasting and journalism at Western Illinois University.

This article originally appeared on The McDonough County Voice: Iowa education "transparency bill" overreaches