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New Education Bill Goes to Kansas House

Parents’ Bill of Rights: House bill faces many opposing educators

Lily O’Shea Becker

House Bill 2662, known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the Transparency Act, aims to give parents more control over their child’s education and provide transparency for what is taught in Kansas public schools. Many educators and Kansas teachers’ unions oppose the bill.

Some of the bill’s aspirations include: requiring schools to establish an online academy transparency portal including course materials and class activities, allows parents to withdraw their child from activities and classes that they do not agree with, gives parents authority over their child’s vaccination status, requires an inventory of all library books and materials, and says teachers are expected to teach without bias.

“If you read the bill, what you find out is that it really not a whole lot to do with transparency or bill of rights,” Marcus Baltzell, communications director for Kansas National Education Association, said. “What it really has to do, is that it aligns right along with an ongoing, nationwide agenda and attack on public education. Every piece in the bill makes it more difficult for public school educators to actually do their job.”

The bill also eliminates affirmative defense for teachers. Affirmative defense in Kansas protects teachers from being charged with a misdemeanor if they expose obscene material to minors in school. 

“The intent here is to make teachers teach from fear, from fear that someone is going to call them into question, from fear that someone is going to attack whatever it is that they’re teaching, from fear that one angry parent can turn upside down their career, their classroom, their students,” Baltzell said. 

Many educators believe the bill is an attack on public school education.

“Well, we think it’s another example of the Kansas Republican Party trying to beat up on public education,” Vice President of Lawrence Education Association Jeff Plinksy said. “It has been a consistent pervasive effort to drive people out of public education.”

House Bill 2662 would protect teachers from being negatively evaluated for objecting to teaching materials that go against their beliefs. 

In mid-February, faith leaders and equal rights advocates gathered in the Topeka Capitol to oppose the bill, which they believe is trying to eliminate diversity and inclusion in public schools as it allows parents to object to materials that go against their beliefs. 

“Well, I fear less for the students of Lawrence because Lawrence is not a place that is going to accept that sort of censorship lightly and I think there would be a strong community pushback,” Plinsky said. “Where I fear for the students is in the smaller towns where there are fewer voices talking and one loud scared voice of a parent can be enough to institute policy change in a school district, particularly a small school district.”

State Representative Kristey Williams, who sponsors the bill, says the bill isn’t targeting race or LGBTQ materials, but is simply to improve transparency and give parents more rights over their child’s education. 

“There are a number of methods to challenge anything you want in your child’s school. Starting with the locally elected school board whose constitutional duty and authority it is to deal with these matters,” Baltzell said.

House Bill 2662 can be amended at any point in the process and needs to be approved by both the Kansas House and Kansas Senate and signed by Governor Laura Kelly before becoming law.