K-12 Curriculum Transparency Bill Passes Senate

K-12 Curriculum Transparency Bill Passes Senate

By Corinne Murdock |

A bill to require K-12 schools to post all curriculum and learning materials on their website passed the State Senate along party lines, 16-13. It now heads to the House for consideration. 

Senate Democrats argued that the bill would hinder teachers’ ability to have flexible, constantly changing lesson plans. State Senator Christine Marsh (D-Phoenix) said that while she agrees “100 percent” with transparency, she said that the bill would result in a slew of unintended consequences. Marsh claimed that teachers would be too busy uploading curriculum data to spend additional time with students. 

Some Arizona teachers complained that they can’t meet the requirements of the bill because there would be no way to have their curriculum done in time for review. The bill sponsor, State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) rebutted that claim during the Senate’s vote on Monday, explaining that what was required of teachers concerned a list of material titles “like a syllabus.”

“It’s been even testified by opponents, teachers who oppose the bill, even in their testimony they were saying they already do something like this,” said Barto. “What it will require is merely putting up the title of what they’re teaching of their lesson plans every week. And not the entire year in advance, which some somehow translate this bill as requiring. Nope. It’s within seven days after, so they just have to use something like a Google Doc, which many are using already — it was testified over and over again.”

Barto cited a study that teachers spend an average of four hours a week searching for material to use in their classrooms.

Some Republicans expressed reluctance to have their vote fall in line with the party.

State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) expressed that the bill was a step in the direction but failed to get at the root of the problem with Arizona’s school system. Ugenti-Rita claimed that the problems concerned leadership, teacher’s unions, and nonpartisan school board members. 

“Putting up loads and loads of information isn’t really going to solve the problem we have in K-12,” said Ugenti-Rita. “This is really not enough to get at the problem. This will leave parents with the impression that something is done when nothing is done. I don’t know what our obsession is with putting things online but you need to really go after the sacred cow, and it’s not the materials online, it’s the elections — these nonpartisan school board elections.”

Ugenti-Rita also expressed concerns that the bill was “intense and overkill.” She asked for commitment from House leadership to make the legislation implementable.

“To me, this is like a supplement. It’s like if you had real, deep health problems, a vitamin isn’t going to fix it. You need to diet, you need to exercise. This is helpful, but it’s really not going to get at the problem at our schools. This isn’t going to keep schools open. This is really going to do very little than look as though we’re doing something,” said Ugenti-Rita.

State Senator Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) said bills like Barto’s were the reason he took heartburn pills over the summer. Pace said he disliked the broad scope of what information educators would have to upload. However, Pace admitted there was a need for curriculum transparency, citing his own experience in which he learned a teacher allowed his kids’ class to play games like “Cupcake Vampire Princess Makeup Tutorials” after they finished an exam.

Other Republicans normally on the fence with certain party initiatives supported the bill wholeheartedly. State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) rebutted that the legislation wouldn’t be a burden on teachers, citing his own experience. Boyer insisted that it would alleviate current burdens on parents as well as benefit teachers looking to improve their curriculum by looking at what teachers are using at successful schools.

Passage of the bill comes over a month after the Senate Education Committee approved the bill.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.