The Iowa House on March 29 voted to pass a bill that would require public schools in the state to publish their curriculum materials and library books online for parents to view, and give them the power to request that certain books be removed from classrooms.
Every Republican member of the House voted in favor of the measure except Rep. Chad Ingels, while all Democrats except Reps. Bruce Hunter and Charlie McConkey voted against it.
The bill comes amid a push from GOP lawmakers in the state to create more transparency and parental involvement in what children are being taught in schools.
It is also a modified version of a previous proposal from Gov. Kim Reynolds that would require schools to publish their curriculum materials and lists of library book titles online.
Specifically, HF2577 would require teachers to give parents access to all “instructional materials”—printed or electronic textbooks and related core materials—that are to be taught in classrooms and allow them to opt out of certain content.
Teachers would need to provide parents with a course syllabus or written summary of the material that will be taught and also explain how the student’s class meets or exceeds the educational standards established in the Iowa Code.
If passed, the policy should be “prominently displayed” on the school’s website and the board of directors should, at least annually, provide a written or electronic copy of the policy to the parents of each student, according to the bill.
If any changes to the materials are made during the school year, the teacher must update the information for the parents to view before the end of the school week in which the changes occurred.
By 2024, teachers will have to use classroom software systems to provide parents with view-only access to the material.
Schools would also be required publish a list of all books that are available in their library and provide parents with a link to access the library and request a book be reviewed or removed, although school years beginning prior to July 1, 2025 that do not have such an electronic library catalog can apply for a waiver.
School districts that violate the rules could face fines of $500 to $5,000 if they do not correct the violations within 14 days.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates the bill would cost Iowa school districts $16.4 million annually to hire classroom cover so that teachers can prepare the materials that need to be reported.
Democrats fear the bill would leave teachers feeling micromanaged and having to spend more time focusing on providing parents with the specific set of information as opposed to spending more time helping children.
“Teachers will be spending all their time trying to enter this information and then reenter what they didn’t do or what they changed,” Democratic Rep. Sharon Sue Steckman said. “[They’ll] be [so] worried about being attacked for what they’re doing that they won’t have any time to show their allegiance to our children.”
However, Republicans have championed the move for creating more transparency among parents and teachers.
“I welcome a change like this that will encourage parents to engage,” said GOP Rep. Garrett Gobble. “Transparency will strengthen trust … and rightfully turn down the temperature and rhetoric surrounding education discussions. I believe this will begin a great new period for parents and teachers to work together for the benefit of our students.”