Final Thoughts on SB 4 - The "Parent's Rights" Bill

Final Thoughts on SB 4 - The "Parent's Rights" Bill

If you're reading this in an email and the videos at the bottom don't come through, read it online.  

This is the first in a series of blogs relating to public education and the legislation that is moving through our capitol this session.  It's a HUGE topic and I'm doing my best to break it down for you but it's still a lot of information.  

It's so important, so please do come back to re-read, absorb and ponder.  Then, go talk with trusted friends and resources.  Do your own due diligence and develop your own perspective.   Our kids & grandkids need you to take the time and get involved.

Sb 4

Parent's Rights.  Transparency.   

This is what Senator Koenig & GOP leadership know you want.  So they gave it to you.  

But did they?  You decide.

I'm not an attorney.  But I did hear the opinions of three unrelated, unbiased attorneys whose expertise is in this field throughout this process.  Those who have differing opinions from mine heard from attorneys, too.  They were primarily senate attorneys and attorneys that are Missouri senators.  There are legal opinions on both sides of this issue.

On my couch with a laptop perched on my lap, I spent hours reading this bill.  Re-reading, referencing U.S. codes & current Missouri statutes.  I made phone calls, sent and received questions via text and consulted legislators as well as educators and heard opinions of attorneys.  Although not an attorney myself, I can tell you I invested many many hours of study and consulted several others.

the good.

What it does do that I'm happy about...

  • Restricts the gathering of biometric data on your student.  Currently, there are no restrictions whatsoever.  Now it is limited to information on their school ID card that can be gathered and stored.  
  • Requirement to train teachers in patriotic history & civics.
  • School accountability report cards for the previous 5 years will be available on the school's website as well as on hand at each individual "attendance center."
  • Parents will receive a printed version of the report card within 5 days of the start of school or enrollment.  These report cards will have a lot of data including school finances, student-teacher/admin ratios, attendance rates, graduation rates, etc.    The report cards have a plethora of information on them.  Too much to type here and even too much for one screen shot but here's a glance.  The report cards are great information for prospective families or anyone considering moving into a district.  

  • Requires schools to protect student devices from explicit materials and inappropriate sites.  I honestly think most are already doing this but codifying it is good. 

the bad

I already blogged about why I don't like SB 4.  Check it out!

the vote.

I believe the vote on SB 4 should've been a no.  Truthfully, I believe we are all a lot better off when these legislators are at home vs being in Jefferson City.   Our liberties are much safer when they are not at the Capitol.

Senators Moon & Carter are the only Republicans who stood against the grain of GOP leadership & voted no.  They voted on their principles regardless of what the others were doing.  I like that.  We need more who are willing to do that.

the real problem

Senator Andrew Koenig put ALL of us in a really tough spot when he pulled a Pelosi-style maneuver and closed debate on the floor hours earlier than what was expected.  

Picture This.

Everyone had been told there would be a filibuster lasting into the night.  They got their sleep schedules worked out and made plans for someone to bring food in later on for dinner, settling in for their first long night of the session.

The democrats were bantering back and forth holding the floor while our favorite republicans huddled in the back discussing what might be the best options to move forward.  They ALL had concerns and they were prepared to work on improving the bill to create something that they could all be proud of. 

Suddenly...what did they hear?  Nothing but Senator Koenig closing the debate!  The democrats suddenly sat down and Senator Koenig CLOSED, which gave the rest of his team basically ZERO time to make any changes at all.  The perfection vote is a voice vote - so it passed and that was the end.  After perfection, bills are generally not changed any further.  They are considered perfect and the next step is a TRAP (Third Read and Pass) vote before it goes to the House.

Our favorite senators had no time.  They were completely caught off guard and they weren't even given time to read the bill.  

Heard of anyone doing that before?  Hmm...yeah.  Pelosi.   

That led to most of our conservatives being between a rock & a hard place on this vote.  

the senators say

Most of our senators truly were between a rock & a hard place on this vote.  They didn't agree with the perfected version, but they did agree with the heart and intent of the bill as well as particular pieces they believed to be more beneficial than the negatives were harmful.  They did agree that there were things about the bill they liked and also things they were and still are concerned about.  

What I know of this group of senators is that they are nearly always with us and they typically always vote conservatively. They are our team.  They are our team now and they are our team in the battles we will fight in the future.

We aren't always going to agree, though, and that's ok too.  If we can agree 80-90% of the time - I'm happy and I think you should be, too.  

I got Senators Eigel & Moon on video for you & I personally talked to Senators Hoskins, Brattin, Carter and Brown.  Here's what they had to say.

Senator Denny Hoskins did appreciate parts of the bill although he does have concerns about the copyright language and the "CRT" portion.  He is committed, though, to working alongside the handler of the bill in the House in hopes of continuing to improve it to the point that we can all be more content.  

Senator Rick Brattin shares very similar sentiments as Senator Hoskins.  He was actually the original sponsor of SB 42 which was combined with SB 4 and 89.  His original bill included language that would require schools to teach patriotic content such as the founding documents, history of civic engagement, excerpts from de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, and an entire list of other patriotic civics topics.  That language stayed in the bill and Brattin is very passionate about trying to ensure that our kids are learning what I would consider to be classical American history, civics and a sense of pride in America.  He is concerned that the CRT language needs to be improved and he's also hoping to be able to continue to work to create something better as the bill moves forward.  

Senator Ben Brown was the original sponsor of SB 89.  Some of his language also stayed with the bill and he felt that although there were concerns about the bill, it was still a net win.  He's happy with the biometric data piece as well as the transparency language.  One concern we both share is the ability of DESE to create so many rules around this.  He says he feels responsible to continue to monitor the progress of this bill, help with the improvements as he can and keep a watchful eye on JACOR, which is the committee that approves the rules DESE will write.

Senator Carter hated to vote no, but she saw too many concerns to feel good about voting yes.  She voted her conscience and I love that about her.  It was a hard hard decision to make and I'm proud of her for sticking to her principles.

my team.  we win together.  we Lose together.

TRUTH:  I hate this bill.  I see so many holes & flaws it feels more harmful than good to me.

TRUTH:  Senator Koenig threw us all under the bus in the perfection process.  That stinks.  That's the 2nd time this session.  I'm really disappointed and very sad about it. 

TRUTH:  Our conservative team was between a rock and a hard place feeling like people would be screaming at them for voting down a Parent's Rights & transparency bill if they voted no and they'd upset others if they voted yes.  Everyone weighed the vote in their own heart & mind and they made the decision that felt best.  I can respect that.  

TRUTH:  This is one vote of the 10-20% that we won't agree on.  It's to be expected.

TRUTH:  I know these senators.  Their hearts and intentions are good & we all want the same thing.  They were each willing to sit down today and talk with me personally and that's worth more than one vote.  It's pretty priceless.

TRUTH:  These guys are my team.  These are the ones I want to go to battle with when it's necessary.  And it will be very soon.  I'm going to trust them and support them in the hard decisions they are forced to make even when I wish it was different.  I hope you will, too.  That said... if they continually show themselves to be untrustworthy or not who they profess to be  - then they'll have to find another bench to sit on.

TRUTH:  IF the House changes even one thing, even as much as a punctuation mark, the senate will be able to take it up again, debate and make amendments if they want.   It's not a done deal yet.

call to action

Always.  Respectfully, let them know what you think.  If you'd like to see them vote differently then tell them.  If you're not willing to do that- don't complain.   I hope you'll take the time to send an email or make a phone call to these senators, your own or the rest of them.  When more of us start speaking up, the more likely we are going to be to see real change not only in the a bill here or there, but in the process of how these things are accomplished.  And THAT is the real win.

Sen Koenig's Parent's Rights Bill Isn't What You Think

Sen Koenig's Parent's Rights Bill Isn't What You Think


the problem with "parent's rights" Acts

I know the masses love the idea of "parent's rights."  But I don't like it.

 When you define something in statute, you then have to abide by it.  If the definition isn't written correctly - you've got big problems and unintended consequences down the road.

In regard to parent's rights, the truth is that parents ALREADY possess the rights.  ALL of them.  Trying to enumerate or define them is inviting trouble because undoubtedly - even if they are trying to do a good thing - the legislature will likely mess it up.  They will miss something, include something they shouldn't or use language they shouldn't- and we'll be worse off instead of better.  

For that reason alone, I don't like most of the Parent's Rights legislation we're seeing right now.  I do understand parents need transparency from their schools, but it needs to be written correctly.  

Personally, I like Senator Eigel's "Empowering Missouri Parents Act."  In his bill, he begins by saying, "Missouri school districts shall NOT..."    I know it's a slight change in the language but it makes a huge difference.  Senator Eigel puts the school in their place vs trying to give parents everything they are due.   Senator Eigel's bill, SB 318, has not been referred to committee at this time.

Here's one clue Senator Eigel's bill is better.  Eigel's is 2 pages.  Koenig's is 33.  

Senator Koenig's Parent's Rights Act has already been through committee and it was perfected on the senate floor this past week.  That means the senate can no longer make any changes to it.  They'll vote on the perfected bill the first part of the week.

koenig's bill is protecting schools not kids

we aren't guaranteed access to proprietary materials

Did you know that publishers of curriculum, even third party contractors that come into schools to teach various topics - including sex ed & mental health -  often have agreements with schools that the materials will not be sharable with parents and sometimes even board members and admin?

For example, Missouri's MAP test is proprietary.  No administrators, teachers, or parents ever see the exact test that students take.  In fact, they are told many times not to even look over students' shoulders.  Seeing the test is off limits.

This isn't transparency.  I don't know about you, but I don't like it.  When the kids had books, we could all see the pages when the kid brought them home or when we went to school at conference time.  Now that most curriculum is online - we have no access and we don't have a clue what the kids are actually learning.

Senator Koenig's SB 4 does not guarantee parents will be able to see curriculum if it is proprietary.    Copyrights and proprietary materials are mentioned a few other times in the bill in addition to this one on page 8.

This is taken from an email between a school board member and third party contracted to provide education to students, but unwilling to share curriculum materials because of the copyright.  This is a problem. 

penalties for schools is $25K

In the case of copyrighted, proprietary materials schools can be fined $25,000 per incident if they are found in violation.  This disincentivizes schools to be transparent and allows for the excuse of copyright infringement for nearly any materials request.  In most cases, a parent wouldn't know whether or not materials were proprietary, copyrighted or not.  This is found on page 14.

allows CRT

This part is a little bit tricky, because if you don't read all the way through you'd think everything is A-OK.  But no.  Essentially, he says that, "You can't do all this CRT stuff" but then he turns around in the next section and says, "This shall not be seen as prohibiting...all the things that might be CRT."    

So CRT is not prohibited IF...
  • You are exercising your 1st Amendment right to free speech
  • You go to the CRT filled teacher training because you choose to
  • You provide access to CRT filled sources for the purpose of individual research
  • You discuss or assign CRT filled assignments as long as you make it clear this is not the school's belief or position
  • You discuss it in the context of history
  • Concepts are related to the history of racial groups
  • Concepts are related to current events
Here's a quote from page 30:
"This section shall also not be construed to prohibit teachers or students from discussing public policy issues, current events, or ideas that individuals might find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive."  - pg 30 line 74-77

I'm sorry, Senator, but we'd be better off if you just delete this entire section.  Let's not try to define CRT in detail and then try to give back the same list.  You've basically just codified CRT!  

We would TRULY be better off without ANY of this.

incentivizes homeless/immigrant students

Senator Koenig also decided to pull the school funding formula into this Parent's Rights bill. 

  • He increased the rate schools are paid on each child who receives a free or reduced priced lunch 
  • He added money for every homeless student.
Why?   I believe there are a couple of possibilities.

Several of our schools have already had large influxes of immigrants over the last couple of years and unless our current Presidential administration changes something about our immigration policy, we are likely to have many more.

These students put a big toll on our public schools.  They often times have no experience with English, they are living in hard situations and it costs our schools, teachers and our students a lot.  

They are a burden to our already struggling system.

It could also be that Senator Koenig wanted to incentivize schools for opting in to his open enrollment program and accepting students who qualify for free & reduced lunches or are homeless.

His open enrollment bill, SB 5, is about ready to be perfected on the senate floor and we can probably expect it will pass in the House quickly as well. 

I could be wrong,  But it's possible.

Call To Action

1.   Call  & email your Senator and let them know what your concerns are with this bill.  Ask for a no vote.  Senator Eigel has a better option!  Nothing at all is better than this.  Legislator Lookup Tool

2.  Copy the link to this post & send it to a conservative friend!