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Parents’ Right to Know: Alabama Senate passes bill requiring school curriculum be made available to parents

On Thursday, the Alabama State Senate passed legislation to require schools across the state to post syllabuses of instruction online in order for parents and guardians to review what their children are being taught in the classroom.

The “Parents’ Right to Know” bill, sponsored by State Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) also requires each classroom teacher, upon request, to allow the parent of a child enrolled in the class to examine all instructional and supplemental materials and books available to students in the classroom.

A parent may file a complaint with the local superintendent if a classroom teacher does not comply. If not resolved within 10 school days, the parent may file a complaint with the state superintendent.

“This is a starting place for parents to find out what their child is being taught,” Sen. Reed said.

“The parental right to know bill was a priority for me,” Reed told reporters after the bill had passed. “How can we take all the information that is going on in a child’s education and put is on a website for parents and grandparents.”

The original version of the bill required teachers to have a parent-teacher conference within ten days of a guardian requesting over a question or objection about the course of study. Democrats had an objection to this because they felt that it would be another mandate on teachers and add to their workload and further distract from instruction time.

Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) said, “I just want to make sure that we are not putting too much on our teachers.”

Democrats asked for changes to the bill. The Republicans agreed. so the bill was carried over for an hour while a compromise could be negotiated between the two sides. “The bill as it was written would require that a teacher meet with a parent within 10 days after a curriculum was posted,” Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) explained to reporters.

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The Singleton amendment would still allow parents or guardians “to request information on instructional and supplemental materials;” but would allow the school to address the concern “of any parent, custodian, or guardian by providing a detailed summary, by email, telephone, or other electronic means, of instructional materials adopted by the local board.”

“If the parent or guardian could not get their issue satisfactorily addressed through that phone and/or email process, “The parent or guardian may request that the local board of education allow that examination at the next work session of the board. The board shall notify the parent or guardian and the teacher of the issues involved and the date and time of the next work session.”

Sen. Singleton explained that with his amendment, “We will not lose any instructional time in the classroom. I am ok with parents having the ability to know what is going on in the classroom. I am perfectly good with that.”

“I was supportive of the amendment,” Reed said. “This is helping parents stay engaged with their student… The goal here is transparency.”

SB48 passed out of the Senate as amended. It now goes to the Alabama House of Representatives where it has been assigned to the House Education Policy Committee.

The Legislature will next meet on Tuesday for day 4 of the regular session. There is a maximum of 30 legislative days in a regular session in Alabama.

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