EDUCATION

Controversial bill challenged by teachers now on hold

Jan 27, 2022, 1:55 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2022, 10:31 am
bill teachers parents...
File: Tiffany Hatch, a first grade teacher at South Clearfield Elementary in Clearfield, teaches students on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

UPDATE: Friday morning, KSL learned the bill to require teachers to post learning materials and curricula online has been placed on hold. You can find our latest reporting here. Our original report follows. 

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s largest teachers’ union created a petition opposing a bill that would require teachers to post all learning materials and syllabi online for parents, under penalty of litigation.

House Bill 234 is called Public Educator Curriculum Transparency. If the bill passes, all public school teachers in Utah would have to publish class plans for each day of instruction. 

Under the bill, teachers would need to announce syllabus changes at least five days in advance. They would also need to seek out approval from their school administrator. 

“Stop making more work for teachers”

The bill sponsor and the head of the teachers’ union behind the petition spoke to Debbie Dujanovic, host of KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic on Thursday. 

Utah’s largest teachers’ union, the Utah Education Association, vows to kill the bill. Their first effort to prevent the bill from passing was the publication of a petition. The petition, titled “Stop making more work for teachers,” continues to make the rounds and raise concerns. 

UEA President Heidi Mathews called the bill “hairy, disrespectful and counterproductive.”

Mathews told Dujanovic the petition received 13,000 responses in a matter of hours.

Some of the frustrations aired by UEA with the bill are listed under the petition. The main concern is the bill would stifle classroom discussion and inhibit the learning process. Teachers complain the restriction of changes to the syllabus would prevent them from adapting lesson plans in response to updates with current events or to the changing needs of students.  

A bill to legislate collaboration between teachers and parents

Dujanovic also spoke to Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, the sponsor of the bill.

Teuscher told Dujanovic the intent of House Bill 234 is to help correlate in-home education and education in the classroom by teachers. He described it as an attempt to “create an environment where any parent can go online and see what their kid was learning this week, what resources were being brought into the classroom, and have great discussions.”

When asked if this amounts to micromanaging teachers, Rep. Teuscher said he does not intend to control teachers. Instead, he sees the goal of his bill as transparency.

It doesn’t tell teachers what to teach, how to teach… all it does is shed light into what’s happening… so parents can help kids do better in school.

Utah teachers have had to deal with a lot over the last few years. Schools adjusted curriculum to move online for the COVID-19 pandemic, adapted to recent changes to remote-learning policies with the omicron variant, and also struggle with staffing shortages as a result of the virus. 

Many raised concerns about provisions of the bill that outline a process for parents to complain about teachers. They can make a case to certain leaders, and eventually bring a case on behalf of a student.

Although the bill provides for potential litigation, Teuscher said teachers would not face monetary consequences or legal punishment. If anyone brings a case against schools, teachers would merely need to produce the materials asked for by parents or students.

UEA hopes to kill the bill

Mathews responded to Teuscher’s claim that teachers who oppose the bill don’t understand it.

“We do understand what [the bill] is going to mean,” Mathews said.

Mathews argued that since no one consulted teachers on the bill, the notion that it provides transparency falls short. She told Dujanovic the bill erodes trust with teachers.

Mathews offered several alternatives for parent-teacher collaboration that already exist; Back to School nights at the beginning of the year outlining syllabi and policies, parent-teacher conferences, email collaboration, and access to learning management software such as Canvas.

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Controversial bill challenged by teachers now on hold