Lawmaker’s Bill Angers, Unites Teachers
A bill prefiled for the upcoming legislative session is catching the attention--and ire--of teachers all across Louisiana. The proposal, teachers say, would lead to more state control of education and force them to work during the summer--a time of year during which they are not paid.
That bill, House Bill 75, was authored by Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria). Under the bill, public school districts and charter schools would be required to post syllabi and lesson plans for each class online ahead of a new school year. The proposed law would also require those districts to update their lesson plans by January 15 of each year.
The specific language of the bill is as follows:
Each public school governing authority shall post prominently on its website:
(a) A list of materials and activities for each school under its jurisdiction, organized by school, subject area, grade level, and teacher. The list shall include bibliographic information for each item, including the title and author of the material and the organization associated with an activity and its Internet address, as applicable. In addition, the full text or a digital version of any material or activity created by the public school governing authority or a teacher shall be posted.
(b) Any policies and procedures for the documentation, review, or approval of such materials and activities.
(2) Each public school governing authority shall post the list by the first day of the school year and update it, at minimum, by January fifteenth annually and shall notify parents each time it is updated by posting notice on its website and providing notice in a newsletter or other written communication distributed to parents.
Harris's bill goes on to define some of the terms he uses in his proposal.
(1) "Activity" means 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. "Activity" does not include presentations given by students.
(2) "Material" means a textbook or other material used for student instruction, including but not limited to any syllabi, outlines, handouts, presentations, and videos created by teachers.
(3) "Teacher" means a teacher employed by the public school governing authority.
(4) "Used for student instruction" means that the material or activity is assigned, distributed, or presented to students and meets at least one of the following criteria:
(a) It is used in a course for which students receive credit.
(b) The use of the material or attendance at the activity is required.
(c) At least a majority of students in a grade level are expected to use the material or attend the activity.
(d) It is among materials from which students are required to select one or more materials if the selection of materials is restricted to specific titles.
Louisiana's teachers are opposed to the bill.
One of them, Hayley Smith, is a teacher at Kinder High School. In a Facebook post, she said that this bill could drive even more teachers away from the profession.
"We are 9 month employees whose paycheck is stretched throughout the year," Smith wrote. "What they are proposing, is that we spend our summer (unpaid time) planning out the up and coming school year. So we’re taking exhausted teachers who have worked all summer (unpaid) and are placing them back in classrooms where we already don’t have enough time or resources to get our jobs done right.
"Teachers will leave if this bill passes. We’re already severely underpaid. We have been stripped of teacher autonomy in our classrooms. And our concerns have (for the most part) been ignored. This will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back."
Other teachers have privately expressed similar concerns. One teacher who is leading a group of educators advocating against House Bill 75 says it's "not about transparency, it is about control and standardization." That teacher also says that preplanning lessons does not allow teachers to adapt to their students' needs or to interruptions in the school year, such as natural disasters or pandemics. The educator continued by saying the posting of "materials and resources" before school begins is equivalent to asking a doctor to make a health care plan for patients he/she has never met.
House Bill 75 will be assigned to the House Education Committee when the regular session opens on March 14.