If you want to know the difference between conservatives and progressives on education, read the education section of NC Policy Watch. A recent blog post by Kris Nordstrom laid out his opposition to a provision in the House budget titled, Modernize Selection of Instructional Materials.
Section 7.22 of the House Budget proposal is titled “Modernize Selection of Instructional Materials,” but if this provision were to become law it would return us to the stone age.
Under current law, the state is responsible for identifying textbooks that align with North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study. The state then uses its substantial purchasing power to negotiate best-in-the-nation pricing, ensuring that no schools anywhere in the country receive books for a lower price than North Carolina. Local school boards have the authority to purchase books via the state contract, purchase other instructional materials, and hear complaints from parents, teachers, and members of the community.
The House is proposing to upend this system. The efficient, statewide program for reviewing, selecting, and purchasing textbooks would be replaced with 115 district-level efforts for reviewing, selecting, and purchasing. Of course, these are the same districts whose funding has been slashed nearly 40 percent over the past decade. Many districts lack the time and expertise to carry out such detailed evaluations. The House proposal would not provide any additional funding for taking on this new responsibility.
The unfunded local burden would be greater when it comes to sex ed, or “health and safety programs.” When selecting instructional materials for these classes, local boards would be forced to conduct public hearings. They would also be required to maintain a centrally-located physical repository of all instructional materials that have been adopted or – in the case of sex ed – are even up for consideration to be adopted. District personnel would have to allow any member of the public to visit the repository to review these materials in person upon their request.
Should parents in local schools have the right to challenge materials used by schools? You bet. Nordstrom doesn’t think so. Why? The process is too expensive, time consuming and well, you know, those local parents don’t know anything and the local districts lack the time and expertise to make educated judgements about textbooks. According to Nordstrom, we’re better off to leave the whole process as it is. It’s working well, right?
What Nordstrom doesn’t tell you, is how difficult it has been for parents to access the textbooks and materials that are being used in classrooms. Many parents feel shut out of the process altogether. Evidently asking schools to make materials available in a repository or on a web site – a common sense measure that should have been done years ago — is too much.
The provision is a reaction against a process that has minimized parents. Is the provision a radical idea? Local school boards already have the authority to purchase books, instructional materials and also to hear complaints from parents and others.
So there you have it; two sides of the education debate. On one side are the parents. They see schools as an extension of parents and sees the schools as working for parents. The other side, progressives. They see schools as vehicles for expanding educational opportunity, an extension of government, with top down accountability, administered by experts who are equipped with special knowledge and skills.
For progressives, it’s about control. It’s always about control. Anything that weakens that control, like giving parents input on how instructional materials are selected, needs to be opposed — even if it requires race-baiting and fearmongering.
The indignation is always telling.