CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Louisiana teachers are voicing concerns about the controversial House Bill 75, introduced by Republican Rep. Alexandria Lance Harris in February. The bill cites problems with transparency in the classroom, but many teachers view the legislation as unnecessary and potentially harmful.
Louisiana is one of several states where Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation requiring schools to post their course materials online before the start of the school year. The national push for these new laws comes amid an ongoing national debate over education issues related to race, sexuality and diversity.
Rep. Harris says the bill is designed to provide transparency for parents, giving them online access to material taught in class. He says that throughout COVID, parents have become more involved in their students’ lessons.
“I’ve had calls from parents saying, ‘Hey, it would be nice if we had this information readily available for us to see online,'” Harris said. “I had a parent who was concerned about some age-inappropriate reading material, and it was, their concern was, ‘Well, you know, we didn’t know they were going to introduce this material,’ and that was the parent’s opinion.”
Red River United president Jackie Lansdale said the bill was “cookie-cutter legislation that doesn’t fit Louisiana.”
Lansdale says all educational materials are posted online for parents to see on Louisiana Believes and Canvas and the legislation simply goes too far.
“It’s all already approved,” Landsdale said. “Parents are already part of these committees.
An amendment, drafted by Harris and released Wednesday, states that lesson plans and materials copyrighted by teachers are not included in the bill. HB 75 would require bibliographic information such as textbooks, essays, articles, and activities involving people outside the school to be listed in the new system.
“That was the, a lot of associations and things were saying that when this bill was first introduced. And from my very first interview about this bill, I said, as the author, that I’m not going to let it overburden teachers or, you know, be another burden on them. They have enough to deal with, so this amendment should actually ease their concerns. »
Louisiana Believes already requires these things to be publicly available and mandatory for teachers, Lansdale says, adding that HB 75 would only complicate matters further.
Harris said Louisiana Believes is heavy when asked how this bill differs from the system teachers already use. He hopes the bill will streamline the information to make it more easily accessible to parents.
“This bill wants it to be reduced to the grade level so that parents know if their child is in third grade, they see what a third grader is, what their textbooks are, what their materials are and, you know, their assigned materials, reading, homework, papers and essays, etc.
He hopes they will make changes to existing sites, but says his bill will establish a separate system to be used on top of them. School authorities would be responsible for posting the material on their websites, under the proposed legislation.
Educators fear that these new bills will deepen the teacher shortage crisis. Schools are already filling positions with permanent replacements as districts have struggled to fill vacancies. Education advocates in Texas are already pushing back on new testing requirements there. A recent study released by the Texas American Federation of Teachers showed that 66% of 3,800 members surveyed in November said they had recently considered quitting their jobs.
In March, the Caddo Parish School Board voted to add an additional five days to the 2022-23 school year for all elementary and middle school students. Director of Studies Keith Burton says the extra days are needed to give teachers time to complete start-of-year diagnostics, student learning goals and give students time to build skills fundamentals. But some teachers don’t want the change. The extra days are controversial because, although teachers will be paid for them, they say they are already at their limit and need a break.
A recent Facebook post by a Bossier Parish middle school English teacher echoed the sentiments of many other educators posted online in states where similar legislation has been introduced.
“People need to wake up,” Casey Atkins Williamson said. “We have an education system that is already in distress as qualified educators and administrators continue to leave this profession. They leave because we don’t trust their expertise. It’s micromanaged and it’s done by people like Rep. Lance Harris (R) who think they know what public education is.
Lansdale also says this new legislation will make teachers more likely to leave their jobs.
Harris says his proposed amendment should address those concerns by making school boards responsible for implementing the new policies. It will be up to each school board to decide on a master plan for implementing the new system. However, Lansdale says that puts the emphasis in the wrong place. The Louisiana Department of Education decides what materials are used in classrooms. If there are concerns about them, Rep. Harris should work that out with the LDOE, she argues, instead of focusing on the teachers.
Williamson says every classroom is different, and educators need to individualize their teaching to meet students’ needs.
“Last week is a great example of why this bill is ridiculous and insulting to me as an educator. I have taught the same ELA units for the past three years. Last Wednesday, while cleaning for the night at 11:30 p.m., I had an idea. I knew my students were engaged in reading that day and wanted to assess what I knew they had learned. So at midnight I sat down at my computer and created a paragraph plan to assess reading comprehension and the concept of conflicting ideas. I used an outline structure approved by our state curriculum, but adapted it to the needs of my students and the lesson at hand. At 12:30 p.m. I closed my laptop after creating a slideshow to post for the students and use while explaining the assignment. Thursday, they succeeded. Students who struggled to write a paragraph this year wrote one. They felt accomplished. House Bill 75 wants to take that away from me and my students just because I didn’t publish it in August.
Casey Atkins Williamson – 8th grade English teacher
Responding to teachers’ concerns about needing to adapt their lessons, Harris said, “They would continue to do that. This bill will have no impact or bearing on that, because the amendment made that clear.
There are no guidelines on modifying bibliographic resources in the bill or amendment. Material and activity approval policies and procedures should be posted. Yet there is no specific language on how changes to materials and activities should be handled as written.
Lansdale says it’s the latest political struggle that has caught educators in the middle. A previous example was the rollout of the common core curriculum in 2010, which she said was a popular buzzword but proved poor for many students.
Despite the changes, the Program for International Student Assessment reports that the test abilities of American students have not shown significant growth over the past 10 years. When asked if that might be the case, Harris said it was strictly about the materials children are exposed to.
“And, as far as the nationwide movement goes, 19 other states have introduced these kinds of bills and I think that’s partly because 90% of American families entrust their children to public schools. So they want to know. Today, parents want to know what their children are exposed to. »
Teacher and parent concerns brought to the attention of the Red River Teachers’ Association were discussed with local legislators. Williamson also encourages the public to contact Harris for more information at [email protected] or (318) 767-6095. Lansdale encourages anyone concerned about what’s going on in the classroom to sit down and observe the lessons. Interested persons should contact the central office and will be required to pass a background check.
Below are links to existing Louisiana laws relating to parents’ rights to information and teachers’ rights to what they may be asked to do:
The 2022 Louisiana legislative session will meet on Monday, March 14 and will adjourn no later than Monday, June 6.