JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Before the Missouri House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education recessed at 10 a.m., committee staff shared that the House record for most public testimony submitted in person or in writing was broken.
Committee members heard public testimony on House Bills 1995 and 1474, nicknamed the "Parents' Bill of Rights," Tuesday morning. Passionate testimony in support of and in opposition to the bill continued after a recess. Students, teachers, parents and lobbyists had varying viewpoints about the legislation.
Public testimony ended around 12:30 p.m. because of the number of people who came to testify in person. Remaining members of the public were asked to share their names and position with the committee before filling out a form with their former testimony.
'The Parents' Bill of Rights'
Lawmakers plan to merge H.B. 1995 and H.B. 1474, introduced by Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, and Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon, consecutively. These bills together are nicknamed the Parents' Bill of Rights of 2022.
H.B. 1474 lays out several "rights" for parents:
- the right to know what their minor child is being taught in school
- the right to visit the school and check in on their minor child during school hours
- the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards
H.B. 1995 requires public school districts to adopt policies promoting parental involvement. If passed, parents would be allowed to observe classes and voice their input on the curriculum taught in their child's school.
"What House Bill 1995 has in terms of its intended target is trust, to rebuild trust," Richey said. "When we have a governmental entity, and school districts are a governmental entity, that is suffering and erosion of trust, what government must do in those circumstances is to become more vulnerable, not less vulnerable."
H.B. 1995 requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop forms parents can fill out to opt their child out of instructional material. Teachers would be required to inform parents before any potentially divisive lessons.
The Parents' Bill of Rights creates the Missouri Education Transparency and Accountability Portal, which would be a district-wide portal for parents to view all of the curriculum and educational materials for their children.
If passed, the bill would make it easier for parents to object to school board decisions and create an avenue for legal action against school districts if they violate any of the new sections.
Public testimony breaks record
Before committee members recessed for its annual sexual assault awareness training at 10 a.m., committee staff announced the number of submitted written and in-person public testimony was the most ever submitted.
Committee Chairman Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, frequently asked the gathered crowd to respect required decorum of the committee and not break out in cheers or applause after testimony.
Two Clayton High School students shared their opposition to the bill in public testimony. Penelope Orchard and Yoana de Moramirasda attended the meeting together to voice their opinions on how the Parents' Bill of Rights would affect their education.
"As members of a nation that prides itself on our freedom of speech and competition of ideas through good-faith discourse, we should find the proposition of these bills defective and we are hypocrites for even considering them," Orchard said.
Noelle Gilzow, Columbia Public Schools teacher and president of the Columbia chapter of the National Educators Association, told ABC 17 News she is against the Parents' Bill of Rights.
"It is terrible and a thinly veiled attempt to undermine public education, again," Gilzow said.
It seemed the majority of people present were against the legislation, however, legislators also heard testimony in favor of the Parents' Bill of Rights.
Parents in support of the bills mostly said they felt this way because they don't support the teaching of critical race theory of the 1619 Project.
"Our concern is with the CRT portion of the discussion is the lack of transparency between school districts and stakeholders, because we know that is causing the water divide and breaking our community," said Ashley Lawson, executive director of Missouri Prosper and mother of several special needs children.
The next steps
After committees hear public testimony on a bill, they vote to either recommend the bill to the full House, amend the bill or kill the bill.
Voting does not typically take place on the same day as public testimony.
If the bill is recommended to the full House, it will be added to the calendar for a third reading and final vote.