Kansas parental rights legislation folded into unrelated bill

Under amendment, school districts would be required to create online parent portals

By: - February 17, 2023 9:12 am
Rep. Kristey Williams

Rep. Kristey Williams said requiring school districts to list materials online yearly wouldn't harm teachers. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A modified form of parental rights legislation would require school districts to create an online portal for parents and publish district curriculum yearly. 

The legislation was advanced during a Wednesday K-12 Education Budget Committee hearing, despite questions from committee lawmakers. The legislation was added as an amendment to House Bill 2271, a separate bill about student enrollment regulations for districts. 

“They just weren’t related,” Rep. Valendia Winn, a Kansas City Democrat, said about the original bill and the amendments. “That’s my issue. It’s clear they’re not related, but we can put anything in an amendment and you can get your majority votes.”

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Susan Estes, a Wichita Republican, stipulates that school districts statewide make parent portals and include copies of nonacademic tests, questionnaires, surveys or examinations. 

Schools would also have to list district-wide curriculum, including textbooks and required reading, updating the information once a year, or whenever substantial changes had been made. Under the amendment, maintaining the information will be the school district’s responsibility, not that of individual teachers. 

Rep. Mari-Lynn Poskin, a Leawood Democrat, said she objected to the amendment because members of the public weren’t given a chance to give their opinions. 

“I am just concerned that it popped up out of nowhere and that we have not let districts weigh in on what kinds of issues or problems it might cause for them,” Poskin said. 

Committee Chair Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican, said she didn’t think anyone would object to the amendment, and felt the portal would actually simplify things for teachers. 

“It’s having its discussion right now,” Williams said. “It’s not a complicated thought to have or post your curriculum. I don’t know any teacher or school district that wouldn’t want parents to know curriculum.”

The language of the bill is similar to previous attempts at a parental bill of rights. Last session, a form of the bill was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly. The original form would have allowed parents to scrutinize classroom materials, speak at school board meetings and contest the use of library books.

Another bill heard this legislative session would allow parents to withdraw their children from class or programs they felt were problematic without affecting the student’s academic records. That bill would allow parents to object to any educational materials or activities that they believe would harm the student or parents’ beliefs, values or principles. 

Critics have said both forms of the legislation would make teachers’ jobs more stressful and promote distrust of school districts and public education. 

Rep. Brad Boyd, an Olathe Democrat, questioned the  need for the legislation. 

“From my perspective, I just think this is a solution searching for a problem,” Boyd said. “I have kids at every level in school, high school, middle school and elementary, and I can tell you, our teachers and our parents, they do a really, really good job of communicating.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.