Bill tying school funding to curriculum materials moves forward in Olympia

Legislation that would allow the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction to cut state funding for certain school districts is moving ahead in the form of House Bill 2331.
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Bill would modify requirements for public school instructional and supplemental materials

Carleen Johnson
The Center Square Washington

Legislation that would allow the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction to cut state funding for certain school districts is moving ahead in the form of House Bill 2331 that would modify requirements for public school instructional and supplemental materials. 

According to a House report on a substitute version of the bill that was passed by executive action out of the House Education Committee on Jan. 29, school boards would be prevented “from refusing to approve or prohibiting the use of an educational material on the basis that it relates to or includes the study of the role and contributions of individuals or groups that are part of a protected class as established in public school nondiscrimination provisions.”

HB 2331 would give the state superintendent the power to cut state funding for districts if the superintendent does not approve of the classroom materials chosen by local schools. 

According to Liv Finne, Education Center director for the Washington Policy Center think tank, the measure would effectively repeal the state law that says local schools should choose textbooks and materials that are best for children in their district.

“It’s done in kind of a sneaky way,” she told The Center Square. “It refers to another law that gives him [Superintendent Chris Reykdal] the power to withhold funding if he finds that a school district is actively discriminating against people.”

Finne went on to say, “That’s the argument they are using: if you don’t adopt this inclusive curriculum, we are entitled to withhold funding from you.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, says the bill seeks to underscore the requirement to comply with anti-discriminatory practices when adopting a curriculum.

“And furthermore [it] ensures that in cases where a book is removed from a classroom or school library, it first follows a process that ensures that student and family concerns are addressed,” she said before the House Committee on Education last week. 

“I agree some texts may be inappropriate for the school setting, and that the first teachers for every child are their parents and guardians, but I strongly believe we have a responsibility to keep a watchful eye on this practice,” Stonier said. “We are hearing about this no doubt, and in a recent report, just considering the permanently removed texts, it has quadrupled in a year’s time.”

Justin McKaughan, a former school board director with the Olympia School District, told lawmakers on the House Education Committee, “Librarians are selecting age-appropriate materials for their clientele and there’s no conspiracy going on; it’s just best practice.”

There has been opposition from some parents who believe the curriculum mandates go too far.

Nicole Wells, a grandmother and former school employee, asked lawmakers if they had spoken to any parents lately.

“Parents are livid, and parents are not okay with teachers teaching kindergarteners about gender,” she said. “Parents are not okay with their teenagers getting a secret abortion or getting puberty blockers without their consent, and they don’t want graphic sex ed or their kids taught that white skin is bad, and parents are certainly not okay with boys in their daughters’ bathrooms.”

She concluded her testimony telling lawmakers, “The public schools will continue to hemorrhage students until it stops usurping parental rights.”

The Center Square reached out to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for comment.

“The bill aims to make clear that banning books and instructional materials based on the inclusion of the role and contributions of individuals or groups that are part of a protected class could be discrimination and could be in violation of state and federal nondiscrimination laws,” an OSPI spokesperson emailed. “It requires local school boards to adopt or revise policies and procedures for responding to complaints/concerns about materials, which will create a more transparent process for families or community members who express concerns. Much of what is presented in the blog article by the Washington Policy Center, a political advocacy organization, is not rooted in fact.”

HB 2331 has been referred to the House Rules Committee with a do-pass recommendation. 

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.


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