By Daniel Stefanski |
Over the past three years, many parents in a number of school districts across the nation have demanded more transparency and involvement with their children’s education. The Republican-led Arizona Legislature has been working on solutions, and Members have introduced new bills this session to give parents the access and information that they have been requesting.
Representative Justin Heap has introduced one of those bills, HB 2786, which deals with requirements for parental notification for teacher training. The bill “mandates a school district governing board develop parental notification and access procedures if the school district is involved with a training for teachers or administrators,” according to the bill overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives. If passed by the Legislature and signed into law, the bill would “require a school governing board to notify parents of these trainings and give parents access to any printed or digital materials used for the training.” It also stipulates that the governing boards adopt “a policy to provide parents the information contained in its parental involvement policy in an electronic format.”
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he introduced this legislation, Representative Heap stated, “Transparency will have the added benefit of bringing school district and school boards back into alignment with the values of the parents of the students they serve. The knowledge that their training materials must be made public will discourage school districts from implementing policies that are hateful to the parents of students in their districts. If any school district official, any school board member, principal, or teacher believes that what is going on in their schools should be hidden from the parents in their district, then they have no business being involved in education.”
The legislation currently has ten co-sponsors: Representatives Neal Carter, Lupe Diaz, Liz Harris, Rachel Jones, Teresa Martinez, Cory McGarr, Barbara Parker, Jacqueline Parker, Michele Peña, and Beverly Pingerelli.
On Tuesday, February 14, HB 2786 cleared the House Education Committee with a 6-4 party-line vote. Republican Representatives David Cook, Liz Harris, Lupe Diaz, Michele Peña, David Marshall, Sr (Vice Chairman), and Beverly Pingerelli (Chairman) voted in favor; while Democrat Representatives Jennifer Pawlik, Laura Terech, Judy Schwiebert, and Nancy Gutierrez voted against passage.
Representative Pingerelli gave the following statement to AZ Free News on why she decided to hold a hearing on this bill in her committee: “Parents should have information readily available about what teachers are learning as part of their professional development programs. Are they receiving instruction about better ways to teach reading, math, or science? Or, as was pointed out during the February 14 hearing and testimony, are the topics covered controversial, ideological or morally objectionable to parents? As I’ve always stated, the focus in K-12 education should be academics. Since it is a reasonable assumption that the training teachers receive is translated into classroom instruction, parents should have the right to be informed. That’s why I decided to hear House Bill 2786 in my committee.”
HB 2786 generated much opposition leading up to and during the hearing in the Education Committee, starting with the Arizona House Democrats. They posted that Representative Heap’s bill demands that “parents get to review every type of training teacher gets (including copyrighted materials),” adding that “he was upset when he learned teachers can get training about equity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity. The Arizona Education Association tweeted that “teachers need to focus on students’ learning – not spend all their time trying to satisfy the demands of people who see our classrooms as a way to score political points.”
Representative Heap disagrees with these analyses of the bill, saying, “I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. My bill does not ban this teacher training, or any training, which a school district wishes to implement. It simply requires that if a school district requires, endorses, recommends, funds, or facilitates teacher training programs then they must make all those materials used (Digital or Physical) in that training available for parents to review.”
Due to the partisan breakdown of HB 2786s support and opposition in the early stages at the Arizona Legislature, it is highly likely that Democrat Katie Hobbs would veto this bill should it pass through both chambers and reach the Ninth Floor later this session.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.