A North Carolina House of Representatives bill that would require teachers to post lesson plans and all instructional material is now in the hands of the N.C. Senate.
House Bill 755 says the school board would have to ensure the information is prominently displayed on school websites, organized, at a minimum, by subject area and grade level by June 30 each year. The bill crossed over from the House to the Senate on May 6 and is in the committee on rules and operations of the Senate.
Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-86 (Burke), is one of the primary sponsors of the bill.
The News Herald asked Blackwell what he hopes can be accomplished with the bill.
He said he hopes it will accomplish two things.
“I think that it’s pretty well established that when parents are more, rather than less, actively engaged in their children’s education, that the children end up doing better,” Blackwell said. “And so this is an effort in that regard, to provide a fairly easy way for a parent to know more about what is going on, or has gone on, in a class, so that they can, hopefully, reinforce it, support it, and where they would like to, they can follow up and ask questions and so forth.
“The second reason is that, increasingly, I think lots of parents are concerned about content and subject matter. And this would simply say that in this class we use certain resources and this is what we discussed.”
Blackwell said it could be anything that would be of interest to a parent. For instance, if they are concerned about their child’s reading ability then maybe they’re interested in whether it’s whole language phonetics, the science of reading. If it is, social studies, maybe they are interested in what kind of materials are being used and whether those materials are promoting certain points of view, he said.
Blackwell said there is no specific topic that the bill is directed toward. He said it’s directed at education topics in general, saying it can be anything from economics to culture to science to sex.
“I mean, it’s as broad as education is broad,” Blackwell said.
One of the big topics that Republicans across the country appear to be trying to squash is the Critical Race Theory from being taught in public schools. Other states where Republicans are trying to ban it from being taught include Texas and Utah.
The American Bar Association says Critical Race Theory “recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation.”
Blackwell is also a sponsor of House Bill 324, which would prevent Critical Race Theory from being taught in public schools in North Carolina.
It prevents, in part, from teaching that an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. Or that any individual should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.”
It also would prevent teaching the “belief that the United States is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.”
Blackwell said the reason for the bill is to avoid schools from teaching certain racial or sexual hate.
“It doesn’t say they can’t discuss the different theories around those things but they’re not supposed to promote a particular type of thing that would suggest, for example, that all Black people are bad or that all white people are bad or that the country is entirely racist,” Blackwell said. “It doesn’t prevent people who believe those things from being able to have input, but it says we shouldn’t be promoting that as the school or the state view of things. But we’re not endorsing it and saying, ‘that’s what you students should believe that.’”
Blackwell said there was no coordination between him as a primary sponsor of House Bill 755 and those who drafted House Bill 324.
Asked whether House Bill 755 it is an attempt to micromanage educators, Blackwell denied that it is.
“There’s no micromanaging involved, they simply say what they’ve done. I mean, nobody’s telling them, this doesn’t say what they can teach or say in the classroom, it just asks them at the end of the year to put online what their course outline or lesson plan was and what sort of resources and materials they use. They don’t even have to list the materials. But, you know, teachers shouldn’t be given carte blanche to do whatever they want in a classroom.”
Blackwell said he doesn’t think there is a procedure in place for involving parents, and a clear understanding of what is being taught in the classroom.
He said there are some parents who aren’t comfortable approaching principals and teachers. And there are some parents who are fearful that if they ask questions that the teacher and principal don’t like, that they will retaliate against their children, Blackwell said.
However, education officials in Burke County say House Bill 755 is redundant and that information is already available.
As for any additional costs the bill may have on school systems, Blackwell said the state Department of Public Instruction will come up with one or more templates that can be used by schools, or schools can use their own templates to create the content.
As part of posting lessons plans and other related items to the schools’ websites, it also should include an explanation of the school system’s process for parents to raise issues or questions, Blackwell said.
Blackwell said there are no penalties and no enforcement mechanism as part of House Bill 755.
Senate Bill 288
NC Senate Bill 288, whose primary sponsor is Sen. Warren Daniel, R-46, would make the Burke County Board of Education elections, as well as Caldwell County Board of Education elections, partisan and during even-numbered years. Currently, school board elections are nonpartisan and happen during odd-numbered years.
The bill crossed over to the House on May 3 and is currently in the committee on rules, calendar, and operations of the House.
Blackwell said he hasn’t made a final decision yet about whether he supports the bill as written.
He said sometime in the next two weeks he will focus on getting his bills heard in the Senate and looking at bills that have crossed over from the Senate to the House, including Senate Bill 288.
However, Blackwell said he’s inclined to expect he will support the bill in the House.
He said some incumbent members of the school board who like the way things currently are with elections have contacted him about the bill.
Blackwell said Burke is one of the seven or fewer school boards out of 115 in the state that are elected in odd years. He said 100-plus school boards get elected during general elections.
As for making the school board elections partisan, Blackwell said, “I think the partisan elections are beneficial in the sense that voters want to know what a person’s basic philosophy is because it helps them to make a judgement.”
In many ways for Burke County Public Schools teachers and administration, and for local parents, the requirements of House Bill 755 would be r…