A broad education bill that addresses critical race theory, parental rights, district curricula and civics teacher training has made its way through the Senate and was heard Wednesday in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.
Senate Alternative Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, would require schools to post the title, author and copyright of curriculum materials online, as well as ban the teaching of concepts its sponsor says are in line with criticism. Race theory, will create parental rights law.
Attached to the ruling requiring counties to post material online is a $25,000 fine for counties that fail to comply.
“We want parents to have confidence in what is going on in our public schools, and the Parental Rights Act will enable parents to have access and know what is being taught in schools,” Koenig told the committee.
The bill also includes an increased weighting of children eligible for free and reduced lunch and homeless children in the funding formula.
The bill also creates a “civics and civics training program” that provides stipends of $3,000 to teachers who choose to participate.
Koenig said the bill does not define the CRT per se, but rather the principles it does not want to teach: “that individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are by nature superior or inferior; and that individuals should be treated negatively or preferentially on the basis of race.” or race, color, or national origin; or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for acts committed by others in the past.”
Rep. Maggie Nornburn, D-Kansas City, was concerned about the bill.
“As you know, there are so many unintended consequences of the legislation we pass, that I fear that we would do anything to tie the hands of the teachers who are doing their best to teach our students, and that this would simply stifle their independence for the exercise of their profession.”
Committee members also had plenty of suggestions for additions to the bill. Representatives asked if Koenig would be open to amendments including the Teachers’ Rights Act, a termination penalty in lieu of a monetary penalty for the district’s non-compliance with the Transparency Gateway, and a ban on businesses that promote activism in schools.
The Opportunity Solutions project spoke in his favour. Opponents included the Missouri State Teachers Association, Missouri School Boards Association, Missouri NAACP, PROMO, and the Missouri National Education Association.
Opponents said the bill would stifle teachers’ ability to teach and leave them with questions about what might violate the law.
“Would there be a hotline—“I’m sorry students, I just have to pause for a second because you asked a question and I don’t know if I’m going to lose my job or cost my district $25,000 or whatever the penalties are now, because they’re changing. Hi, 1-800-can-I-teacher-this? —Is what I’m imagining for this law because there’s just too much,” said Dava-Leigh Brush of the Missouri Equity Education Partnership.
MNEA’s Otto Wagen said the bill would require school machines to block video-sharing sites, which he said would block sites like YouTube, which are commonly used in classrooms.
Rep. Ed Lewis, R. Moberly, said he’d like to take a look at that line.
The committee passed HB 901, which would create an education stabilization fund to use if revenues were lower than expected for a school funding formula, and HB 492, which would establish pilot programs for critical thinking and media literacy in schools.