After failed teacher transparency bills, Utah’s state school board updates classroom material policy

Districts and charter schools need to have a parent “reflective of the school’s community” involved in the process to approve materials.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah state school board members at a meeting in July 2021. On Thursday, the board updated a state rule giving parents greater say in the approval of classroom materials.

Parents can have more say in what their children learn and what textbooks they use, under a change approved Thursday by state Board of Education members.

School districts and charter schools must now make the process of selecting specific books and videos, and the process of reviewing complaints about them, “transparent and publicly available” to parents, the revised rule about classroom materials states.

With the changes, all curriculum committees for schools must include at least one parent who has a child at the school and who is “reflective of the school’s community.”

Most districts already had curriculum committees in place and allowed parents to see materials upon request.

But concerns about parent involvement in K-12 curricula flared in January, when teachers fought back against a bill that would have required them to post classroom materials 30 days in advance.

The measure, SB114, was proposed by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore but it didn’t pass, although it had strong support from some parents.

Fillmore, a Republican from South Jordan who owns a charter school management company, wanted a district’s school board to hold a public meeting identifying the textbooks and videos a teacher planned to use. Only after that would a school board be able to vote to adopt the materials for use in the classroom.

The state school board has already established standards for what can be taught and created a database where teachers can see what materials the board has vetted and what meets state law.

Still, Fillmore’s bill — and another that proposed requiring all curricula and class syllabuses be made available for public inspection, which also did not pass — raised concerns about the level of involvement parents have in what their children are taught. And the state board members reacted to that with their update to the rule Thursday.

Conservative Natalie Cline was the only one of the 15-member board who voted against the change.

Parents can contact their local school districts directly to learn about how to give input on school materials and how to apply to become a member of their school’s curriculum committee.