Teachers around Louisiana pushback against HB75
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - With the 2022 Regular Legislative Session less than three weeks away, lawmakers have begun filing bills for consideration. Earlier in the week, teachers around the state began reacting to one bill, HB75, filed by District 25 Rep. Lance Harris, aimed at making public school curriculum more transparent.
The bill “requires each public school governing authority to post on its website information relative to instructional materials and activities for each school under its jurisdiction.” It would require those details to be posted by the start of the school year and updated by Jan. 15.
Harris said when COVID-19 forced students to learn from home, some parents became upset over what their children were learning in the classroom, with fears centered around philosophical ideas like Critical Race Theory.
“Parents have a right to know what their kids are being taught eight hours a day,” said Harris. “Is it academics or activism? That’s the parents’ decision they will make, and they just need the data and they need the information to make good, solid decisions concerning their kids in school.”
However, Central Louisiana teachers like Hayley Smith, whose Facebook post on the bill went viral, said the state curriculum is created in such a way as to not allow for much deviation. The curriculum can be found on the Louisiana Believes website.
“We have very little responsibility or power in choosing the curriculum that we teach from,” explained Smith. “For example, I’m an English teacher. I cannot choose the books that I teach from in a school year. I cannot choose the texts that I use to teach different concepts and skills from. The state department of education uses a curriculum, and they have been very strict in telling us we must teach it with fidelity.”
The main concern among respondents to a KALB survey of viewers on HB75 was focused on the language of the bill, which many thought implies a teacher’s responsibility to have a year’s worth of lesson plans created before they even meet their new class of students.
“Activities” is defined in HB75 as “a lecture, assembly, presentation or other event used for student instruction that is facilitated or hosted by the public school governing authority or the school, including any such activity conducted by an outside individual or organization.”
“Materials” is defined in HB75 as “a textbook or other material used for student instruction, including but not limited to any syllabi, outlines, handouts, presentations, and videos created by teachers.”
We asked Harris about the bill’s requirements, an exchange which went as follows:
KALB: “So, this is textbooks?”
Harris: “Textbooks, reading materials, lecture series, those types of things.”
KALB: “Would those not go into lesson plans, though?”
Harris: “It would, but this does not cover lessons plans.”
Smith responded to the bill’s language, saying, “All those things do work together as a lesson plan. So, it could even just say, must upload lesson plans, and we would assume it’s all of those things that they are asking for.”
About 75% of survey respondents echoed Smith’s interpretation.
Harris said the “lesson plans” interpretation of the bill’s language was not intended, saying it is not the expectation, and it will be amended to clear that issue up.
While HB75 has yet to undergo any changes and is only in its first draft, many of those surveyed said they believe the current expectations are limiting to teachers, one saying “education does not exist in a vacuum.”
“Every school year I have a group of different, unique, wonderful people who come into my classroom, and it sometimes takes me weeks to get down to the bottom of what they need as individuals. What kind of plan do I need to put into place for them and their educational needs as individual people?” said Smith. “They’re learning. They’re discussing. They’re enjoying what they’re learning. And when we pay attention to those moments, when we take note of them, I feel like that’s where we start to turn the tide on education. That’s where we start to change the narrative on what’s going on in education in the state of Louisiana.”
Harris emphasized that he does not intend for his bill to overburden teachers. However, looking at feedback from survey respondents, of whom almost 80% were educators, that would be the result.
Of those respondents, 85% said they do not support the bill as it is currently written, many calling for it to be “scrapped completely.”
Full Text for HB75:
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