The Lead

Curriculum transparency bill heads to Wolf’s desk, who opposes it

By: and - December 15, 2021 5:22 pm

Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, speaks on the House floor May 14 — his last day in the Capitol before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. (Courtesy of House Republicans)

Amid a national debate about school history curricula, a bill mandating schools post their course materials online is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk after it passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly this week.

The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House voted along party lines 112-88 Wednesday to approve the legislation, authored by state Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, in what Republicans have termed a transparency measure. The state Senate approved it earlier this week in a party line, 28-21 vote.

In a statement, Elizabeth Rementer, a spokesperson for Wolf, said the governor opposes the bill.

“To be clear, the governor, in general, supports transparency, but this appears to be a disingenuous attempt to prevent school boards from considering a robust set of curricula,” Rementer told the Capital-Star in an email.

Lewis introduced the proposal this year as school officials faced contentious meetings over critical race theory — a 1970s theory taught in graduate and post-graduate classes that examines law and history through the lens of racial identity.

It would go into effect next school year. Schools must post online a list of textbooks, syllabuses, and state academic standards for each course they offer. The only exemption from posting is for documents that might violate intellectual property rights.

In an introductory Facebook post on the bill, he said it was necessary because of “out-of-state textbook publishers teaching heaven knows what (hint: anti-American socialism) to our students.”

State law already requires public schools to allow parents and guardians access to their child’s curriculum, academic standards, instructional materials, and assessment techniques by request. 

But Lewis argued his bill would help parents because “they don’t know what’s being taught in school. And they should have that information at their fingertips.” 

But legislative Democrats countered that the legislation would create new burdens for school officials, and potentially impact how they teach social studies in school. 

The bill, argued state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, would “bring the culture wars into our classrooms” by allowing out-of-state activists to access Pennsylvania teaching plans.

“This is just extra work for districts, not to help students or families, but to provide extra fodder to talking heads,” Frankel added.

If it is vetoed, it would join a long list of bills Wolf has rejected over his time in office working with the Republican Legislature, particularly in the past two years.

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Marley Parish

Marley Parish covered the Senate for the Capital-Star.

Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.