House Democrats killed the Delaware Education Right to Know Act earlier this week, refusing to release from committee a measure aimed increasing school transparency and parental participation.
The measure would have required each Delaware public school, including charter schools, to establish a web portal on which the public would have been able to access the following information:
- A course syllabus or a written summary of each instructional course.
- A general description of instructional materials, textbooks, and digital resources that educators plan to utilize in each instructional course.
- The school’s policy on how information is communicated to parents/guardians and other stakeholders about violent incidents taking place at the school.
- What health care services are offered at the school and how parental/guardian notification and consent are handled regarding these services.
The bill also sought to guarantee that parents and guardians would have an opportunity to meet with the educators teaching their children at least once each academic year. School officials and teachers would have had the flexibility to determine the best method for satisfying the requirement.
The bill’s lead sponsor, State Rep. Charles Postles (R-Milford North), said his legislation was an attempt to give Delaware parents convenient access to basic information already compiled by most schools.
However, several Democrats sitting on the House Education Committee, which considered the bill on Wednesday, said such access would be harmful to public education.
State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark) objected to schools being required to list the textbooks they were using, fearing that some parents would use the information to protest materials they deemed to be inappropriate. “If that parent feels that way, maybe their option should not be public education, maybe it should be a private school, maybe it should be a religious school.
“I understand your need for a portal to make it convenient for parents,” Rep. Kowalko said while addressing Rep. Postles. “But when the portal becomes almost a magnifying glass to identify certain things that individual parents find offensive, I think that’s counterproductive.”
As a former school board member, Rep. Postles said he believes teachers need a wide amount of latitude to do their jobs effectively. At the same time, he said parents should have access to general information about what their children are being taught. He said the Delaware Education Right to Know Act was an attempt to reconcile these interests in a way that would not be burdensome.
Despite the explanation, committee member State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Glasgow) took issue with the legislation. “We can’t pretend that there is not a reactionary backlash here in America going on in terms of education when we talk about how really education is moving forward in some ways when we’re talking about teaching critical race theory, increasing the education to students about minorities in our history, LBGTQ+ history, science-based sex education, information about sexual orientation, gender identity and trans individuals. So, I do think that this legislation a bit smacks of that and I also do think it smacks of folks who say: ‘I don’t like this certain book. I don’t want it in my kids’ classroom.’
Rep. Morrison continued, noting he received a lot of emails in support of the bill. “What I saw in those emails supported every bit of what I am saying,” he said. “There was an astonishing amount of ignorance, amount of fearmongering in those emails. It was very disturbing to me.”
Committee member, State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro), said the proposal would help make parents better partners in the education process. “I was a teacher for eight years, and I never heard a schoolteacher or principal say there was a benefit by not having parents involved.”
Expanding the scope of his comments before the vote on the bill, Rep. Collins took the committee and the General Assembly to task for their inability to embrace education reforms, even when faced with the poor performance of many public schools.
“In 2019 — the last full year of real school — we had five high schools in Delaware with a math proficiency of less than 10%: two of them at 3% and one of them at 5%,” Rep. Collins said. “We had six other high schools with a math proficiency of between 10% and 16%. We are failing our children. … It’s time for us to get off our high horse and do the job that people elected us to do.”
All the committee’s seven Republicans — State Reps. Ruth Briggs King, Kevin Hensley, Richard Collins, Charles Postles, Michael Ramone, Bryan Shupe, and Michael Smith — joined by State Rep. Bill Bush (D-Dover), voted to release the bill for consideration on the House floor – two votes short of the majority needed.
While disappointed, Rep. Postles said he plans to revisit the measure in the next General Assembly and to work with State Rep. Sean Matthews (D-Talleyville), who expressed an interest in the bill.
To watch the complete hearing click here, then select “New Recordings” and House Education Committee for April 6, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.