Missouri Republicans target schools, books and race in latest culture war proposal | Education


JEFFERSON CITY — Republicans in Missouri gave initial approval Tuesday to legislation that states parents have the right to have the curriculum used in their child’s classroom.

The so-called “Parents Bill of Rights” measure now awaits a final vote in the House and, if passed, an uncertain future in the Senate.

It’s the latest example of Republicans stoking culture wars in the middle of an election cycle by forcing votes on divisive issues, including abortion, transgender rights and racial sensitivity training.

Democrats decried the GOP effort.

“The truth is, it really is a phantom issue. It’s misleading,” said Rep. David Smith, D-Colombia. “It’s really part of a national strategy by a group of people to piss them off and get them to the polls. It’s a page from a political strategy book. It’s a shame that so many people have been misled.

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The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, tries to guarantee access to the “teaching material” of the class. Various amendments proposed by Republicans focused on limiting the teaching of critical race theory.

“We are addressing the concerns of our constituents,” Baker said.

The proposal comes as groups like No Left Turn in Education have worked in the April 5 election to elect school board members who will view curbing racial equity and transgender rights education more favorably.

School board campaigns in the St. Louis area were marked by a conservative push against pandemic-related mask and quarantine policies, which later broadened to oppose diversity and equity programs. and books on racial and gender themes.

Baker, pastor and former student dean of Ozark Bible Institutesaid the legislation could address concerns that students are being indoctrinated against their parents’ wishes.

“Some of the things that are happening, we have to fix them,” Baker said.

representing Dottie BaileyR-Eureka said the legislation is among the most important lawmakers facing this year.

Bailey claimed that school districts are “preparing their children to be drug addicts” by allowing them to read certain books. She said school administrators tried to hide their activities from parents.

“They think we’re racists, bigots,” Bailey said.

Under the legislation, parents could sue a school district if they believed the district had knowingly violated the law.

Republican lawmakers, all of whom are re-elected to the House in November, have flooded the Legislature with similar proposals. Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for the US Senate, also offered his own version.

Many provisions are already enshrined in law in one form or another, including the right to review curricula, books and learning materials.

The legislation would also give parents the right to visit the school during school hours with restrictions.

representing Paula Browna Hazelwood Democrat and former school teacher, said most of the legislation is already in state law.

“I find it redundant,” Brown said.

Other Democrats have said the Legislature should allow local school districts to do their jobs without state interference.

“In fact, I trust the teachers who take care of my children. I believe parents already have a bill of rights,” Rep. Keri IngleSummit of D-Lee.

representing Joe AdamsD-University City, said Republicans like Rep. Nick Schroerwho is running for a Senate seat in St. Charles County, are trying to limit the teaching of history.

“There’s no collective, agreed-upon history of anything,” Adams said. “You have mastered the art of generating conflict.”

Black lawmakers have said the GOP’s efforts are needlessly divisive.

“We’re not doing justice to the kids back home,” Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis.

The legislation is Bill of 1858.

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