November 19, 2021
Presented before the Education Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature by Stan Rasmussen, Sutherland Institute vice president of government affairs, on Nov. 17, 2021.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning, senators and representatives. Stan Rasmussen with Sutherland Institute.
Again, we appreciate Senator Lincoln Fillmore’s and the committee’s efforts to address this important matter of curriculum transparency. As we shared with you previously, we see curriculum transparency as building up the parent-teacher partnership that is key to student success, and view Senator Fillmore’s proposed legislation through this lens.
The proposed legislation admirably strengthens the parent-teacher partnership
- by including the parent perspective in the school district review and recommendation process for instructional materials and curriculum resources, and
- by requiring that recommendations be posted online for 30 days and be approved at a district school board meeting where any parent can express their views.
Sutherland believes the legislation could further strengthen the parent-teacher partnership with these additional modifications:
- Including in the controversial-issues policy two requirements: (1) that districts maintain a non-exhaustive list of known controversial issues that fit the definition of controversial issues as adopted by the district, and (2) that educators offer students multiple viewpoints in any classroom discussion of known controversial issues; and also by
- adding to the supplemental-materials policy the requirement that school districts designate a classroom materials adviser (at a district or school level) whom an educator can consult, at the educator’s discretion, for an advisory opinion on whether a specific supplemental material or resource is likely to be problematic for students or parents.
These additional provisions will provide clear guidelines, based on best practices, for educators regarding controversial issues and supplemental materials. They will serve a role similar to the codes of professional conduct adhered to by other licensed professionals, such as attorneys and doctors. These procedures and tools will support and equip teachers to choose supplemental materials and engage classroom discussions about controversial issues with confidence. They will also encourage students’ critical thinking skills and learning. Through these impacts, the modifications will further strengthen the parent-teacher partnership.
Sutherland again commends both Senator Fillmore and this committee for seeking to address this critical issue. We will continue to advocate for enhanced curriculum transparency for grades K-12 and look forward to working with you in doing so.
This case should establish whether the state can require creative professionals and businesses to send messages even if it does not express antipathy to the professional or business beliefs.
It’s easy to follow the path of viewing someone who disagrees with you as short on intelligence or morality. It takes depth of character to take the road less traveled.
There needs to be a way to correct decisions at odds with the underlying laws being applied. The court can and does have options to prevent (or correct) this type of result.