Teachers and 10-Year-Old Testify to Wyoming Legislature Against Transparency Bill
At the Wyoming House Education Committee meeting on Monday, several teachers and a 10-year-old spoke out against a civic transparency bill, which failed to get out of committee on a 4-5 vote.
The bill, Senate File 62 or the Civics Transparency Act, would have required teachers in Wyoming schools to post all the materials they use in class in an online portal.
The argument used by its proponents - lawmakers and parents - is that the bill would have allowed parents a better understanding of what teachers are teaching.
Senator Ogden Driskill, who sponsored the bill, said to the committee that the bill doesn't require anyone to teach anything and that they moved the effective date to 2023 to give teachers more time to adjust.
"What this bill is, is what the title says, transparency. And what is transparency folks? Is transparency, as has been posted on a site, looking in your kid's backpack, ask your kids, yeah that's part of it. But the process that's been given to us is this. Go see your teacher, if you don't get what you want, go to the administrator, if you don't get that, go to the superintendent, if you don't get that go to the school board. Does that sound like an easy way to be transparent to you? What this does is they want titles of things that have been used in the classroom...transparency means you put it up where you can find it, and this isn't a huge burden. I realize I'm preaching to you, but I'm a little bit bitter...some of the quotes that have come off this, 'overburdens teachers,' 'stifles creativity,' and then took a shot a shot directly at me. 'Disrespectful towards our educators and assumes a lack of professionalism.'"
Alicia Green, a parent who works for Honoring Wyoming Children, said she pulled her kids out of public school because she wasn't able to find out what was being taught at her kid's school.
"Hearing one person say that one person couldn't be for this bill and for teachers just broke my heart, because I'm for teachers and I'm also for this bill," Green said. "Going into this school year, I had a problem with one of the mandates and I went to a school board and voice my opinion on it, and I heard about this new curriculum. This was the Monday before school started, so seven days before school was supposed to start. I go into my kids school and say 'hey, what's this about a new curriculum.' They really had no idea either, they didn't tell me. I don't think this is something that should be blamed on teachers. I'm strongly not placing blame there, but I also couldn't get information. Here I am five days before school's starting and I'm scrounging figuring out, what is this curriculum actually teaching. Is there underlying things behind it besides just teaching ELA type subjects? I ultimately pulled my kids from public school and put them in a different school. I'm in there at least two days a week."
Opponents of the bill, teachers, education organizations, and a student, said the bill would be too burdensome for teachers that are already stretched thin due to the pandemic.
Kimberly Amen, a 3rd-grade teacher at Pioneer Park Elementary School, said teachers are already overworked due to the pandemic and haven't gotten any extra time or pay to compensate.
"After March of 2020, we were asked to double our workload to meet the needs of students, and we did because that's what teachers do, we step up and we meet the needs of our kids. We had to completely rethink every single process we had in the classroom to keep our students safe. We are currently required to teach both in-person and online when students are quarantined, which means we have to prepare both in-person lesson plans and online lesson plans for our students. We were asked to make all of these changes without one extra minute of planning time given to us, or one dime of compensation for the extra work...Sadly all we've received is more attacks is from people who have not visited schools, who have not come to talk to us. Instead, they listened to the rhetoric that is on the national news that is intended for no other purpose than to instill fear and distrust in our public education system...It is demoralizing, it is disrespectful, and not necessary, and the only thing this bill will accomplish is to drive more teachers out of this profession."
Mariah Learned, a kindergarten through eighth-grade interventionist at the University of Wyoming Lab School, said teachers want to be able to provide quality education, and requiring them to catalog all their material would take time away from their students.
"Every minute I would spend compiling or listing materials would be precious time I would lose in planning and prepping for these interventions for our media students," Learned said. "It would be time lost that I could use for professional development. I participate in PD opportunities as often as I can, and I often find new materials as a result of those trainings...This bill would ensure that my colleagues and I would have less time for such professional development. Nothing has been proposed to come off our plates as a result of this new requirement. Something will have to give, these platters are overflowing. My students deserve the best of me, not what's left of me after creating a list. There are literally thousands of materials I could pull from to provide quality intervention to students next year, please allow me to do what I'm trying to do, and that's to teach my students."
Trayton, a 4th-grader at Indian Cambridge Elementary, said requiring teachers to record all the resources they use could lead to students learning less because of how much work teachers already do.
"Good teachers use lots of different types of materials every day to teach us and sometimes they look things up because we ask a lot of questions," Trayton said. "One time we were learning about space and one of my classmates asked about a star and they wanted to know how far away it was. My teacher looked up the answer while we were at recess so he could tell us the answer. My teacher does that a lot. We have a lot of questions, but those things were not in the lesson plans for the day. It is really cool that my teacher is able to look up answers to things we are interested in. It means we are learning even more. If this bill passed, I think that teachers would not do as much because it would be more things that they have to keep track of and put on their list...I think the bills are a lot more work for teachers. They already work really hard and I don't think this is fair."