Should the policy become law, school districts and charter institutions must provide public web access to syllabi for all classes, thorough lists of the textbooks planned for use in those courses, and commonwealth academic standards for all course offerings. Should a school make any curricular revisions, it would have 30 days to publish them.
Mastriano reasoned that government, including public education, must commit to openness and that his proposal would help schools meet that commitment. He suggested the requirements he wants the state to adopt will aid busy parents who desire an efficient way to stay apprised of the academic content to which their children are exposed.
“Transparency is key to ensuring that all parents have a seat at the table and can make their voice heard on issues that impact their children,” the senator said in a statement. “Schools should be focused on teaching our children how to think, not what to think. I’ve heard from many parents who have no idea what is being taught until they see their children’s homework. This legislation ensures parents have the tools they need to be informed.
Eight senators, all Republicans, are cosponsoring Mastriano’s bill so far. Democrats have strongly resisted similar legislative efforts in the recent past. State House Republicans offered a curriculum-transparency measure last session and it passed both chambers on party-line votes.
Then-Governor Tom Wolf (D) vetoed the legislation, characterizing it as an “onerous” and politically reactionary distraction from addressing issues like lockdown-related learning loss and teacher shortages. Wolf opined that parents and taxpayers don’t need automatic online access to curricula because they can submit requests to view the lesson plans.
“Under the guise of transparency, this legislation politicizes what is being taught in our public schools,” Wolf wrote in a missive to lawmakers explaining his rejection. “State regulations adopted by the State Board of Education already require that public schools provide parents and guardians with course curriculum and instructional materials upon request. In addition, textbooks are adopted by school boards in meetings open to the public…. This legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict truthful instruction and censor content reflecting various cultures, identities, and experiences.”
The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, the two unions representing most of the commonwealth’s public school teachers, opposed last session’s legislation. Neither organization returned a request for comment about the new Mastriano bill.
The measure faces an uphill road to enactment since Democrats now control the state House and Democrat Josh Shapiro is governor. Yet policymakers have seen a groundswell of interest in such legislation in recent years as K-12 educators have drawn upon far-left concepts like Critical Race Theory (CRT). This ideology maintains that racism inheres in American institutions whether or not those who lead those institutions harbor hostility toward minorities.
While many progressives deny that CRT is taught in American public schools, the National Education Association (the PSEA’s parent organization) explicitly advocates for bringing CRT into America’s classrooms. Some school districts in the Keystone State have expressed their intention to use CRT as a basis for instruction.
When parents in districts including Lower Merion and Tredyffrin/Easttown inquired about their kids’ school lessons, district administrators sometimes responded slowly or failed to provide detailed information. In 2021, Tredyffrin/Easttown brushed off curriculum requests from the activist group Parents Defending Education by citing “copyright concerns.”
In response to this excuse, the new Senate bill contains a section stating, “In no case shall the requirements of this section be construed to require a school entity to violate the copyright, trademark or other intellectual property right of the creator or owner of the curriculum.”
Mastriano’s legislation would take effect 60 days after becoming law. It awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.
Moderate and conservative legislators trying to enact classroom-transparency legislation have faced resistance from liberal officials in other states. Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed a bill requiring the automatic promulgation of curricula in 2021. The idea has, however, become law in some other places, including Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed effectuating legislation last March.
– – –