Indiana classroom transparency bill stalls in GOP-run Senate

An Indiana education proposal that drew criticism for originally aiming to place broad restrictions on teaching about racism and political topics took a major blow Monday when Republican state senators did not advance the bill.

The proposal faced a Monday deadline in the Senate for the debate of proposed amendments, but the bill sponsor did not call it for debate before the Senate adjourned for the day.

The Republican-dominated House in January approved the bill that supporters said was aimed at increasing transparency about what was being taught in classrooms.

Some provisions from the proposal could be revived before the March 14 deadline for ending this year’s legislative session, but Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray told reporters the full bill did not have enough support among GOP senators to advance. Democratic legislators were unified in opposition.

“We had some members of our caucus who felt like it didn’t go far enough,” Bray said. “We had some members of our caucus that felt like it was too much of a burden on education and just not good policy that we wanted to move forward.”

The bill’s language had been rolled back several times in response to an outcry from teachers and other critics who have maintained that the bill would amount to “censorship” of classroom instruction and curriculum.

The leader of the state’s largest teachers union said educators, parents and others had made it clear the proposal “has no place in Indiana” and warned that some of the bill’s provisions could be inserted into other legislation.

“We’ll stay vigilant, but we hope lawmakers will take this opportunity to step back and collaborate with educators, parents, and others to create legislation that everyone can support for the benefit of all of our students,” Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said in a statement.

The latest bill version endorsed by the Senate education committee two weeks ago stipulated that schools would be barred from teaching that one group is inherently superior or inferior to another, that one group should be treated adversely or preferentially, and that individuals, by virtue of their traits, “are inherently responsible” for the past actions of others who share their traits.

It also would have ensured that parents could access their school’s learning management system and allowed them to review any other learning materials used in their child’s classroom upon request. Parents would have also been able to request a school board to adopt a parent committee to review curriculum, though it would not be required.

Many Republican lawmakers made the issue a top priority amid the national conservative movement against teaching concepts in K-12 schools such as critical race theory, which has become a catch-all term for the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Republican senators killed a similar proposal in January after an uproar over GOP Sen. Scott Baldwin of Noblesville saying that maintaining neutrality on contentious issues required teachers to be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies.

Baldwin walked back the comments, saying in a statement that he “unequivocally” condemns Nazism, fascism and Marxism and agrees that teachers should do the same.

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