18 March 2022 | Early Learning

Let kids learn: HB 2662 limits student opportunity in Kansas

Mitch Rucker | Early Learning Policy Advisor
March 18, 2022

HB 2662 is one of the most expansive education policy bills in recent history and threatens to undo much of the progress Kansas schools have made towards individualizing and enhancing educational opportunities for students. Under the guise of increasing parental access to and engagement with their child’s education, the bill threatens childhood immunization policies, bans books, and diverts teacher time and attention away from teaching.

Of course, the bill’s proponents would object to those assertions and would quickly pivot to arguing that we just want government (schools) to oversee raising kids. It's easier for them to use this bill as a political cudgel than to defend the policies included within it. But the evidence is available for anyone to see how these provisions are not in the best interests of Kansas children. There are five specific provisions in HB 2662 that we are concerned about.

Childhood Immunizations

The bill weakens childhood immunization policy. HB 2662 reserves to parents the “the right to make healthcare and medical decisions for such child, including the right to make decisions regarding vaccinations and immunizations...”

That one line in the bill opens up Kansas schools to a host of legal challenges to immunization policies that have been in place for decades. It puts schools at risk of losing the ability to require immunizations for polio, measles, and other highly dangerous and contagious diseases. It puts a great deal of stress on school budgets due to legal fees. And worst of all, it puts Kansas kids at risk of contracting severe illnesses that our state hasn't had to worry about for decades.

If this bill passes as is, parents of immunocompromised kids – and immunocompromised kids themselves – would have to put their families at risk for the child to receive the education our state must provide. Kids need to be in school - safely.

Book Banning

Once again, this bill places the opinions and feelings of community members over the interests of students by allowing any parent of a child in the school district to challenge any educational material – be it a part of class curriculum, a video shown to help illustrate a point, or a library book – and subject it to removal from the school.

Under this bill, the objection of one parent could take away from all other students in a district the opportunity to access a robust education that academically challenges them and creates critical thinking skills. For many kids in Kansas, their school library is the only one they’ll ever visit, and removing a book from that library is effectively taking it out of the child’s universe. Kids need opportunities to find and explore their interests, and Kansas should not adopt a policy that restricts their ability to steer their own education.

Curriculum “Transparency”

The bill contains “academic transparency” provisions, which would require schools to catalog and post all materials in a curated online database and save them for no less than two years. It also states that law enforcement officials, parents, and even non-parent residents of a district can sue the district for violating this provision, and that the school will cover up to $15,000 for the plaintiff in each successful lawsuit. This requirement takes limited time and money out of the classroom, burdening schools and teachers with several layers of bureaucracy.

Teacher Evaluations — Religious Protections

Not content to meddle with vaccinations, library contents, and day-to-day management of schools, HB 2662 also delves into personnel matters. Section four of the bill states, “A person subject to evaluation who refuses to teach through critical pedagogy philosophies or against such person's sincerely held religious beliefs shall not be negatively evaluated or have such person's contract be nonrenewed on the basis of such refusal.”

The bill would protect teachers who educate based on their personal religious beliefs, subjecting students to being given a potentially skewed and limited educational experience. If a teacher refused to teach standard curriculum, for instance, because it did not align with their religious beliefs, that action cannot be taken into consideration in an employee evaluation. 

Blocking Student Surveys without Parental Consent

HB 2662 maintains the current practice of requiring parents to opt their child into non-academic surveys a school administers rather than apply the more efficient practice of having parents opt their child out. It also prevents schools from collecting any identifiable student data. While student data privacy is a serious issue worth addressing, the prohibition in this bill is overly broad and would hinder efforts in many districts to provide students with individualized instruction.

While working this part of the bill, legislators did make one improvement by carving out an exception for designated school personnel, such as a school counselor, to administer suicide risk assessments or screening tools.

Parents should be able to engage in their child’s education. However, this bill broadly allows the loudest voices – even if few others agree with them – to enforce their beliefs upon their entire school district, rather than parenting and making decisions for just their child. HB 2662 threatens all Kansas kids’ educational experience and jeopardizes their opportunity to prepare for the real world - in their own community and beyond.

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