Gov. Wolf vetoes bill requiring school curriculums to be posted online

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Republicans are blasting Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a bill that would’ve required schools to post curriculum plans online, but opponents are applauding the move.

Right now, parents can ask to see the curriculum for their kids’ classes, but this bill would have made it all available online. Some call it transparency. Others say it’s a veiled attempt at censorship.

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“It’s a very reasonable and simple transparency bill that allows parents to see what their kids are going to be learning in school and be able to access that information online,” said Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-105th District.) “So I’m very disappointed today and a little bit baffled, to be honest.”

Wolf vetoed Lewis’s House Bill 1332. The reasoning was echoed by Deborah Gordon Klehr with the Education Law Center.

“The bill promotes censorship in the guise of transparency,” Gordon Klehr said.

Over the past few months, critical race theory, which is not taught in public schools, has been the topic of conversation.

“I don’t see this as a political or a cultural warfare bell or anything like that,” Lewis said. “I started working on this a couple years ago. And to me, it’s a transparency bill and it’s about bringing transparency into the 21st century when it comes to education.”

But that’s not the way Gordon Klehr sees it.

“We view this legislation as part of a national effort that will lead to book bans, and we don’t think there’s room for this kind of censorship in Pennsylvania,” Gordon Klehr said.

She says it opens up teachers to harassment and silences diverse voices.

“This legislation would have a chilling impact on classroom teachers and would reverse school districts’ important efforts to make schools more welcoming and inclusive for students of color, for LGBTQ youth, for all students,” Gordon Klehr said.

“I just think that the governor has shown that he’s willing to make it harder for parents to access this information that they’re entitled to about their own children’s education and I’m very disappointed that he did this,” Lewis said.

In a statement, Wolf said:

“Under the guise of transparency, this legislation politicizes what is being taught in our public schools.  State regulations adopted by the State Board of Education already require that public schools provide parents and guardians with course curriculum and instructional materials upon request.  In addition, textbooks are adopted by school boards in meetings open to the public.  Therefore, requiring all public schools to publish on their website the details of every textbook, course syllabus or written summary of each course, and the relevant academic standards for each course is not only duplicative, but overly burdensome.  The onerous requirements of this bill fall on educators who should be focused on critical issues such as addressing learning loss, managing the impacts of the pandemic on students, and working through staffing shortages.  Many education stakeholder groups voiced significant concerns and opposition to this bill, including its underlying purpose, the lack of need, and its burdensome impact.

“This legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict truthful instruction and censor content reflecting various cultures, identities, and experiences.  My Administration is committed to creating a safe learning environment for all students, and we will not take part in this dangerous and harmful imposition.”

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