If You Have School-Age Children in Indiana, You Need to Pay Attention to HB 1134
What Is HB 1134?
Imagine being asked to plan your household budget a year in advance. Without knowing what will happen during the year, you plan out every dollar of your hard-earned income and how it will be spent. A month into your proposed budget, your water heater unexpectedly breaks. Now, you need to redirect funds to cover the cost. However, to do so, you need to submit a plan, in advance, for it to be approved before you can transfer the funds, leaving you without hot water until given the okay. Sound reasonable? For Indiana teachers, this could be the new reality when educating your children.
On January 26, 2022, the Indiana House of Representatives passed a new bill that has many educators concerned as well as parents questioning what the proposed provisions will mean for their children’s education.
The controversial bill, named House Bill 1134, would require teachers to submit their curriculum a year in advance to be approved by a committee of parents, educators, and community members. If any changes are needed throughout the school year, they must be submitted for pre-approval before being implemented. Teachers fear how this could affect the effectiveness of their teaching plans in meeting the academic needs of each student. For Hoosier children, this means walking into a classroom and being taught a lesson that was planned before their teacher even knew their name, let alone their academic or emotional needs.
Additionally, HB 1134 would prohibit teachers from including materials or teaching lessons relating to “sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.” In turn, parents will have the ability to request their children be given an alternative lesson to replace topics that they disapprove of or that may cause them discomfort. This stipulation leads to a heightened concern of increasing teachers’ workloads who are already feeling overwhelmed. In turn, this may worsen the current teacher shortage as it pushes more educators out of the field.
Education matters. Defines a "qualified school". Requires each qualified school to post certain educational activities and curricular materials on the school's Internet web site. Provides that public records that are available on a qualified school's Internet web site shall be excepted from public record requests for individuals that have access to the school's Internet web site at the discretion of the qualified school. Requires the school corporation or qualified school to add functionality that allows parents of students in the school corporation to opt in to or opt out of certain educational activities and curricular materials under certain conditions. -HB 1134
What is the Intention of HB 1134?
According to Rep. Anthony Cook, the author of HB 1134, the bill’s purpose is to allow more transparency and parental control in their children’s education.
"The overriding intent of this bill is to provide curricular transparency, as well as to empower parents by returning them the opportunity to participate in the curriculum process of selecting and approving instructional materials to be used by teachers in the classroom." Source: IndyStar
Representative Chris May, who supported the bill, posted this to Facebook to clear up misconceptions.
- Establishes minimal requirements for what curricular materials must be posted on a school's curriculum portal, leaving it up to local school boards to decide if they want greater transparency.
- Empowers parents by requiring that curriculum they request to see be responded to within 30 days IF that curriculum is not already available on the school's curriculum portal or Learning Management System.
- Requires schools to have an advisory committee comprised mostly of parents that may inquire about and recommend policies regarding curriculum and transparency, but it is advisory only as this already happens when selecting text books.
- Creates protections for teachers from having to affirm or adhere to discriminatory concepts.
- Limits the Secretary of Education's authority to suspend or revoke teacher licenses for teaching discriminatory concepts only to substantiated violations that were committed willfully or wantonly.
- Requires parental consent for use of surveys administered by schools and third parties that try to identify or influence student perceptions. However, it does NOT prohibit them.
- Does NOT prevent the teaching of historical injustices or concepts, forms of government, or ideologies that conflict with our Constitution.
- Does NOT prohibit students in need of interventions or services for mental health, behavior health, or other social emotional learning from receiving those services.
The impetus for this bill comes from a sizeable group of parents who live in dozens of counties and school districts who are concerned for what is being taught in their schools and the indifference with which they were shown by their schools.
What Are Many Educators Saying About HB 1134?
However, educators relent that this transparency already exists as parental input is a valued aspect of their children’s education. Instead, they fear this bill will place boundaries on children’s freedom to learn.
In another component of the bill, teachers and districts are restricted from offering any “mental, social-emotional, or psychological” services without first obtaining parental consent. This could place many limitations on teachers’ ability to connect with their students and allow classrooms to not only be an academic environment but one that makes children feel safe, welcome, and understood.
High school principal, Bryan Himes tweeted this:
How to Talk To Your Legislators
Going forward, HB 1134 will move on to the Senate for a vote. Parents can express any concerns by reaching out to Indiana legislators.