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Missouri Senate education committee passes Parents' Bill of Rights

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, takes notes on Jan. 18 during an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Legislation to establish a Parents' Bill of Rights, which includes requiring Missouri school districts to provide parents with curriculum information and prohibiting the teaching of certain diversity-based topics such as critical race theory, is headed to the state Senate.

Members of the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee voted 6-3 Tuesday to advance the bill, with all three Democrats voting against it.

The legislation is multifaceted, with several issues pertaining to K-12 education. Two of the provisions are related to transparency. Under the bill, schools would be required to allow parents to access or copy curriculum documents. It also gives them the ability to obtain other information, including school contracts and the names of guest lecturers.

The second provision requires the establishment of a Missouri Education Transparency and Accountability Portal, which would give citizens the ability to see every school district’s curriculum, textbooks and source materials.

“I think with transparency, parents can put more trust into the public schools that they're sending their kids to,” said Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, chair of the committee and sponsor of the bill, during a public hearing last week.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, addresses the Education and Workforce Development Committee regarding his bill to, in part, prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in schools, on Jan. 18 at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. Sen. Ben Brown, R-Washington, who is sitting beside Koenig, introduced similar legislation.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the teaching of what often is called critical race theory. This bill would bar the teaching of the following concepts:

  • That individuals of any race, ethnicity, color or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.
  • That individuals should be adversely or advantageously treated on the basis of individual race, ethnicity, color or national origin.
  • That individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by others.

Parents can file a complaint with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education if they believe a district is in violation, which would lead to a hearing involving the parent and the school district held by the Board of Education.

Any public school or public charter school that is found to knowingly be in violation would be subject to litigation or other form of redress and to a civil penalty of $500 per occurrence.

Koenig said he chose to go this route as opposed to defining the theory within the legislation.

“I define the activity that was offensive, like, what should not be taught in schools. And some people might say that's not CRT, and some people might say that it is. But at least we know what's prohibited,” Koenig said.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, speaks against Republican-led legislation putting restrictions on school curriculum on Jan. 18 during an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing in Jefferson City.

Democrats on the committee repeatedly pushed back against the legislation. Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, said he believes this bill will make it harder to teach in the state.

“I think this is going to be another hindrance to a growing problem that we currently have of trying to keep our teachers in the classroom and attract more quality people to come in and teach our kids, this is going to be one more burden for them to go through,” Beck said.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said elementary and secondary schools are not teaching critical race theory, which he said is more commonly taught in law schools.

The bill is one of many already proposed related to course curriculum access and critical race theory. The legislation passed by the Senate education committee on Tuesday was a substitute of Koenig’s original bill and is a combination of three Senate bills. It now heads to the full Senate.

Sarah Kellogg is the Missouri Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio

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