Pennacchio Bills Would Shine Light on Education in Public Schools
Require Increased Transparency So Parents Are No Longer Left in the Dark
Senator Joe Pennacchio sponsors two bills increasing transparency and making it easier for mothers and fathers to keep up with what’s happening in their children’s classrooms.
Pennacchio’s legislation supports parents who, after closely observing their children through a year of remote learning and hearing about controversial issues being advanced by some school districts, are becoming more engaged than ever in the education process.
“Parents don’t want to be surprised when their child comes home and tells them what happened in school,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “They don’t want decisions about education and curriculum being made in darkness and relative secrecy. They want to be part of the discussion, they want their voices heard, and they deserve no less.”
Pennacchio’s bills mandate boards of education (S-4014) to be more open about their meeting schedules and agendas, and requires public schools (S-3875) to make curriculum plans available to the public and allow the plans, textbooks and learning material to be inspected and reviewed by the parents and legal guardians of students.
“Board members and the schools work for the taxpayers and parents, not the other way around,” Pennacchio said. “Many New Jersey residents have grown dubious of the policies being forced on their kids and the motivations behind the policies. These bills will make it easier for parents to find out what’s going on and to get the answers they need.”
One Pennacchio bill (S-3875) brings increased transparency to lesson plans and textbooks used in schools.
Under the legislation, school districts must post curriculum plans for each course offered to students in every grade level at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the school year. The information for each learning unit would include student learning objectives and information about textbooks and other classroom material for the lesson.
Additionally, districts would be required to make textbooks and course material available for review before they are incorporated into classroom instruction.
“Parents want more say in what their youngsters are being taught,” said Pennacchio. “Unlocking the curriculum for parental review will help foster cooperation between teachers and families and could encourage more parents to be active participants in the education of their children.”
The clarity provided by the bill would prevent districts from inserting controversial topics like critical race theory into curriculums without public awareness.
A second Pennacchio measure (S-4014) amends current law to require school boards to post full board meeting agendas on their websites 48 hours before the start of the meeting. The agenda must include a detailed description of each item on the docket.
“Increasing transparency will allow parents to follow the boards’ plans and gives them enough time to come out to public meetings when something doesn’t sit just right,” said Pennacchio. “No longer will boards be able to enact policies when no one is looking.”
The measures, both introduced in June, were complemented this week when Pennacchio and Senator Mike Testa rolled out legislation that would prevent critical race theory from being taught in public schools, and prohibits public school teachers from engaging in political, ideological and religious advocacy in classrooms.