WA mandates LGBTQ curriculum in K12 schools

WA mandates LGBTQ curriculum in K12 schools

A public school teacher’s perspective on SB 5462

*Guest post written by Washington public middle school teacher on CLW’s Legislative Action Team

Here we are. Column Number Three. I started writing this before Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5462 into law earlier this month and boy, has this new law gotten a lot of media attention lately. Good! It needs to. This is a bill that, “…ACT Relating to promoting inclusive learning standards and instructional materials in public schools…” What does this even mean? I will try to break it down in today’s column.

The 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why) are important to think about when considering the potential results of implementing SB 5462.

Who: I think this one might be by far the most crucial. Who are the ones finding, creating and recommending curriculum(s) based on the requirements of 5462?

This part is two-fold. We have the OSPI side and the local school district side. According to Section 5, “the office of the superintendent of public instruction, in collaboration with the statewide association of educational service districts, the legislative youth advisory council established under RCW 43.15.095, and the Washington state school directors’ association, must create an open collection of educational resources for inclusive curricula. The office of the superintendent of public instruction must consult with the Washington State Office of Equity established in RCW 43.06D.020 and any other relevant state agencies when creating the open collection of educational resources.” OSPI will have a collection of resources for schools from the following: kids, people working in the State Office of Equity, ESD’s from around the state and WSSDA.

The 2nd part of the “who” are school districts/boards. This is where the school boards might have a little bit of autonomy. I say “might” very loosely. Reading this bill, it sounds like OSPI will create the policies and procedures fulfilling the requirements of SB 5462, but school districts may be able to create their own curriculum adoption committees that satisfy the policies and procedures and choose the curriculum for their schools. I can speculate that many of the districts on the Western side of the state will incorporate more progressive types of curriculums while the Eastern side of the state will probably take a more balanced approach since many of those communities don’t heavily lean towards those progressive types of policies. One thing that I want to mention in section 3 it states, “The committee may include parents at the school board’s discretion: PROVIDED that parent members shall make up less than one-half of the total membership of the committee.” School districts can decide if they want parents on this committee. Great! However, if they do include parents, they can only make up less than half of that committee. You can decide how you feel about that one. However, I could be completely wrong on this part and OSPI could create the curriculum and tell school districts what and how to teach it.

What: What content areas will these standards be a part of? What does teaching “inclusive standards” really look like in a classroom setting?

Section 2 pretty much answers those questions. It says, “The model policy and procedure must require that school district boards of directors, within available materials, adopt inclusive curricula and select diverse, equitable, inclusive, age-appropriate instructional materials that include the histories, contributions, and perspectives of historically marginalized and underrepresented groups including, but not limited to, people from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, people with differing learning needs, people with disabilities,
LGBTQ people as the term is defined in RCW 43.114.010, and people with various socioeconomic and immigration backgrounds.” Wow! That is a lot of curriculum/content to cover. How are teachers supposed to make sure to fit all of that into their classes while achieving high academic standards in reading, writing and math. I think if we put this much effort into ensuring children can read, write and do math at grade level, can you imagine the results that would yield? Just take a look at WA state SBA scores.

WA OSPI 2023 report card

When: When will this be incorporated into our public schools?

According to the bill, “By June 1, 2025, the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), with the assistance of the office of the
superintendent of public instruction, must review and update a model policy and procedure regarding course design, selection, and adoption of instructional materials.” So, by June of 2025, OSPI will have the policies ready to go and by October of that year, school boards across the state must adopt those policies and procedures. By September of 2025, OSPI will have a schedule of their plans and actions surrounding the revisions of the state learning standards.

Where: Where does this take public education? In what direction are we really going by implementing these types of policies?

Well, I can say that many parents are pulling their children out of public schools and this new bill won’t make it easier for districts. All around the state, districts are in budget crises. Cuts are happening to both employees (teachers, paras, secretaries, cooks, etc.) and programs for students because there isn’t enough money due to enrollment being way down. Bills like SB 5462 won’t help that. This bill will further erode confidence in Washington public schools.

Why: Finally, last but certainly not least the why. Why are “inclusive” learning standards important in WA state?

They seem to be related to the continuing DEI initiatives that are required for teachers to keep their certification and policies that continue to infiltrate schools across the state. That gets answered in Section 4 (b), “Include a screening for biased content in each development or revision of a state learning standard and ensure that the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as those terms are defined in RCW 15 28A.415.443, are incorporated into each new or revised state learning standard.”

How many learning standards do they plan on revising? Kids test scores aren’t great, but the state wants to focus on adding/revising changing the standards to be more inclusive? Seems really backwards to me. With test scores continuing to decline in the wake of the remote education disaster, falling enrollment numbers and their resultant negative impacts to district budgets leading to teacher layoffs, our lawmakers again failed to find ways to address this crisis in public educations, instead they chose to pass a bill which adds cumbersome criteria to the curriculum.

Instead of giving educators the tools and time to reinforce the lagging system and identify ways to help students, even more educator time will be spent in breakout sessions and training days asking each other questions like: does this assignment properly adhere to our inclusivity goals? What percentage of minorities or underrepresented groups are in Shakespeare?

I don’t know about you, but all I see is continued talking point virtue signaling from lawmakers forcing more red tape on districts about the latest buzzword that does nothing to help a middle school student that is four grades behind in reading and math and has little chance to get caught up because the focus is on DEI instead of academic achievement for all students.

So, to wrap up Column Number Three, SB 5462 is going to be implemented in WA State. To what extent and how much will student learning be affected by these changes is still up in the air. My question for parents is: How important are “inclusive learning standards” to you and your kids’ education?

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