Colorado Politicians Vote To Hide School Curriculum From Parents

Colorado parents seeking more transparency from schools were shut down when a committee rejected the proposed bill.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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colorado parents
Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters.

Around the nation, more parents and lawmakers are calling for educational reforms giving caregivers more say in their children’s education. With countless bills being proposed across the nation to exclude critical race theory teachings and more school choice options, Colorado parents are feeling the significance of a recently voted down a bill that would have required school districts to make all learning materials readily available. The rejection of the bill came failed the Senate with a 6-3 vote.

As part of Republican lawmakers’ “Commitment to Colorado” legislative agenda, the bill, among others, would have expanded rights in education for all Colorado parents. Sponsored by state Republican Tim Geitner, the proposed bill would have made it a requirement that all teaching materials throughout Colorado’s public school system be readily available within seven days at the request of a caregiver. Furthermore, the bill also would have covered nonacademic surveys including student well-being, teacher training materials, and information regarding electronic devices used by students to be readily available as well. Lastly, the voted-down bill would have required districts to give parents the option to report any violations in regards to controversial lesson topics and policies.

With the Democrats voting down the transparency bill, members of the House Education Committee claimed there was no need to draw out the process of enacting another piece of legislation on the matter, as most teachers and school districts were believed to have already made such information available to Colorado parents when asked for it. State Representative Barbara McLachlan, a Democrat and retired English teacher apologized to concerned parents while urging them to keep working with local communities instead of addressing the matter at the state level. “For 20 years I had parents come in and ask me what we were reading and I would show them, give them a book, let them take it home and read it. Most teachers welcome it. There aren’t enough parents who go in and talk to a teacher,” said McLachlan. 

Similar legislative bills have been making their way through government in more than a dozen states. The governors of Arizona, Florida, and Iowa, all states against Critical race theory teachings, also called for curriculum transparency laws in speeches to their legislatures in January. Often tied in with critical race theory, such bills also challenge how schools teach controversial topics such as race within America’s history. Colorado parents in support of the legislation, however, remarked disdain for the rejection of the bill as a dismissal of the much-needed tools and means to aid students with homework while leading open conversations with teachers in the schools.

Speaking with Chalkbeat, Colorado parent Sherri Yockey stated that she was refused reviewal of a school presentation on sexual assault and consent from her adopted child, who had been through similar traumatic experiences. Furthermore, Yockey claimed she was denied review of a lesson on the Russian Revolution to help one of her children study for a test. This example is just one of the reasons Republicans have led the push for more transparency within the school system.

colorado parents
Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters.

On the other spectrum, some Colorado parents are thankful the transparency bill was voted down. Deronn Turner stated that while she was in favor of school transparency, she worries as a Black mother to four Black children that her kids might not get taught crucial lessons if the bill became law. “Being a person of color, I look at controversy in a different way. Right now in this country, teaching Black history is controversial. Children should be able to learn about themselves in school, and teachers should not be restricted or censored because if students don’t learn about those things, we’re doomed to repeat things.” Similarly, the bill faced opposition from plenty of Colorado school districts, including rural communities, teachers unions, and progressive education advocacy groups. Amie Baca-Oehlert, the president of the Colorado Education Association said that educating would be “impossible” if every single parent was steering educational instruction differently.