COLUMBUS — Amid concerns about new Common Core education standards, Ohio lawmakers want to ensure that parents have the opportunity to review textbooks, instructional materials and curriculum used by schools.
The off-year education budget bill headed to Gov. John Kasich to sign into law includes a requirement that all school districts have a parental advisory committee to determine how such information is made available.
“We are saying that parents should have an opportunity to see the choices that have been made in curriculum and that parents have the ability to look at that — not to veto it or be on the committee that selects materials — but to see what is being used,” Senate Education Chairwoman Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said.
Most school districts already offer parents such opportunities.
“I don’t think it’s a major departure from current practice,” said Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association. “Districts try to make sure parents have the opportunity.”
Typically, materials are available for review at administrative offices, schools or the local public library.
GOP leaders in the Senate tucked the parent-advisory provision and others aimed at debunking concerns of federal control of Ohio’s education system into the budget bill as some lawmakers continued to push to block Common Core standards from being used in Ohio.
In addition, the bill establishes state-level content review committees for Common Core standards in reading and math and state-developed ones for social studies and science; requires the Ohio Board of Education to establish standards to safeguard student data; and requires the state superintendent to conduct a study of student data security by Dec. 31.
Developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, the guidelines for reading and math replace standards that varied state to state. Ohio is among 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt Common Core.
Supporters say the standards are more rigorous and will better prepare students for college and career. But opponents argue they are tantamount to national standards for schools and undermine local control of education.
Two states have repealed Common Core.
Rep. Andy Thompson, a Marietta Republican and sponsor of a bill to block Common Core in Ohio, said the budget provisions “attempt to make local something which is clearly not.”
“I appreciate the fact that people are starting to listen,” he said, “But I don’t think we’re going to be good until we get out of the standards and out of (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers),” a multistate group working on Common Core assessments.
Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said lawmakers sought to address concerns and encourage parents to be more involved.
“We believe our education standards don’t just belong to the department of education and they don’t belong just to the state legislature or even a local board of education,” he told colleagues before they approved the budget Wednesday.
“Our education standards also belong to parents and teachers and taxpayers, and that is what this bill does.”