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Teachers organization vows to kill transparency bill

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A controversial new bill is upsetting some Utah teachers.

The proposal would require instructors to disclose virtually everything they teach in class. It also includes a provision that would allow for parents or students to sue a school district if they believe that a teacher or district has failed to follow the provisions of the bill if it becomes law.

House Bill 234 is sponsored by Rep. Jordan Teuscher of South Jordan.

Kiera Beddes has been teaching for a decade. She said she has always been required to disclose to parents what her courses contain, and her materials must also be approved by administrators at her school.

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She said Teuscher’s bill is redundant, but also goes much further. It would mean she would have to potentially disclose everything she mentioned in class, including if she reads a newspaper article or reads a poem to her students.

Beddes said as a professional teacher, she has been trained to teach her students and asks for flexibility to do that.

“Teachers are experts in teaching, and they need to have the space to teach,” she said.

Teuscher said the bill does require teachers to publish their syllabus and all their teaching materials. He said if a teacher introduces something to the classroom that wasn’t previously disclosed, they have five days to add a note to their disclosure.

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Teuscher is not targeting teachers, he said, but rather informing parents about what is being taught to their children.

“If you went out to a common person on the street and asked them, ‘Do you think it would be good idea for parents to have access to what their kids are learning in school?’ They'd say, ‘Yeah,’” Teuscher said.

The president of the Utah Education Association, Heidi Matthews, said that the bill is “egregious” and vows to have it killed.

“We need to stop it in its tracks, not let it enter into the legislative process, and just kick it in the tush,” she said.

This is the second bill regarding education transparency introduced by lawmakers this week. Two days ago, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore made some changes to a bill that would require school districts to publish many of their materials online for 30 days and allow parents to comment on them.

Teuscher said although his bill does allow for litigation, it does not allow parents to sue a teacher directly.

Instead, it provides a process for parents to follow to bring litigation against a school district. He said after parents have filed complaints with the district, and if they don’t feel they have gotten their concerns addressed, they can go to a county or district attorney who may file a suit against the districts if they believe there is a case.

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If the district loses the suit, then they have to pay the attorney fees.

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