ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Instructional materials rule would burden schools, teachers

State Republican lawmakers appear to be looking to add a significant burden to teachers and schools with a possible law that would likely provide little benefit to parents but mountains of hassle to educators.

In response to a vocal minority of parents who claim their K-12 students are being taught critical race theory, legislators are polling constituents about a measure that would be certain to do little else but waste time and effort.

Ahead of the upcoming January short session of the Indiana General Assembly, some GOP lawmakers are including this question on their constituent surveys available now:

“Would you support legislation requiring schools to post online any instructional materials used in the classroom so parents can easily access the content being discussed?”

That question appears on surveys from Rome City Rep. Dave Abbott and Auburn Rep. Ben Smaltz.

There’s a slightly different version on Indiana Senate surveys, asking “Do you support or oppose requiring schools to make their educational materials available for parents to inspect?”

That question is on LaGrange Sen. Sue Glick and Auburn Sen. Dennis Kruse’s surveys.

Although these questions are similar in spirit, the version asked by the House representatives appears to foreshadow a much more onerous regulation on public schools.

There’s a vast difference between making materials available to inspect versus a requirement to post them all online to inspect.

The latter begs the question, what would be required? Does the school just need to post a list of textbooks or educational software that it is using in the classroom, or does it need to provide full access to those materials?

In terms of time, what is the cost of uploading every piece of material for every class in every grade K-12 onto the school’s web servers? Who is going to be responsible for doing that? Who is going to be responsible for updating it every year if/when classroom materials change?

And, perhaps the biggest question, how many parents are actually going to browse through all of those materials?

Even a parent who spoke out at a recent East Noble School Board meeting angry about some of the content he felt was inappropriate in a book being read in the classroom admitted he didn’t have the time to read a whole book to know what’s in it.

Are average parents going to research every book being taught in literature class, review every math and science lesson, read through their students’ entire history curriculum?

Outside of those few parents who are convinced — and are unlikely to be unconvinced regardless of what’s made available — that there’s something rotten afoot in their public school, the answer is obviously no.

Parents already have access to inspect much of what their students come into contact with from their students anyway. It’s already your right as a parent to check your child’s book bag, textbooks, school laptop, etc. to see what they’re up to.

If parents want to learn more about what their students are learning in the classroom, teachers and building administrators are likely more than happy to get them more involved in their child’s education.

As your local newspaper, we’re always supportive of increased transparency in government. But even Indiana’s public records laws have reasonable limitations on access to prevent undue time or expense spent on frivolous or overly burdensome requests.

A requirement for schools to post “any” instructional materials online rings of an overly broad and wasteful requirement that would offer little real benefit to the public for the labor that would be required to comply with it.

Lawmakers should not spend time on this type of wasteful legislation.

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