MN Senate passes school curriculum review bill

A teacher in a classroom.
Derek Francis, manager of counseling services for Minneapolis Public Schools, teaches a class of fourth and fifth grade students at Jenny Lind Elementary on Feb. 10.
Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News file

The Minnesota Senate passed legislation Thursday aimed at ensuring parents can review school curriculum.

The bill adjusts an existing statute by stating parents can look at curriculum “immediately upon request” and “without cost.” The measure also requires school districts to notify parents of the policy at the beginning of each school year.

Bill author Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, who is a Republican candidate for governor, said his bill would provide the transparency that parents are asking for.

“I think with the closing of schools and distance learning, the silver lining of the whole thing is many parents got more involved with their kids’ education, and that’s a good thing,” Gazelka said. “But as they began to hear some of what was being taught in classrooms, they were frustrated because they didn’t feel like they had a voice.”

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Senate Education Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, spoke in support of the measure, saying he believes the change could rebuild trust in public schools.

“This bill will simply help improve communication,” Chamberlain said.

Senate Democrats criticized the bill as unnecessary. They argued parents are already involved in their children’s education because the existing statue ensures that. They also warned the change could lead to expensive data requests.

Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Minneapolis, said she has concerns with the bill.

“I think that will add a definite burden for school districts, for teachers, for staff in terms of time and cost,” Wiklund said. 

Another DFL senator, Jason Isaacson of Shoreview, suggested the legislation was designed to prevent teachers from talking about subjects parents don’t want covered. 

“What I’m concerned about is that just because you don’t like what your kids are learning about doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn it. Things like slavery. Things about white institutional racism, white privilege,” Isaacson said. “These things are real things that are systemic throughout our systems of government, education, health care. And just because it’s uncomfortable for someone to learn it because it doesn’t jibe with their beliefs doesn’t make it any less real.”

Gazelka said his bill was merely designed to get parents more involved in their children’s education. 

The bill passed 37-30. There currently is no House companion bill.