Iowa House resurrects school ‘transparency’ bill for curriculum, books

By: - February 1, 2023 4:45 pm

Proposed legislation would require all school districts to have specific procedures for book challenges. (Photo by Diyosa Carter/Getty Images)

A bill that received preliminary approval by an Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday would require school districts and charter schools to make classroom materials available to parents along with a list of their library books and a process to challenge them.

House File 5 is similar to a bill that was approved by the full House last year but stalled in the Senate.

Under the new legislation, school districts would create policies to allow parents to view textbooks and other “core” materials, syllabi and an explanation of how the classes comply with state educational requirements. Districts are allowed to produce the materials electronically.

Districts would also be required to establish a process by which materials might be withheld from a student if a parent or guardian objects.

Each district would also be required to give parents access to an electronic catalog of books in their libraries and provide a form online that parents can use to request a book’s removal.

“Sunshine and parental involvement are gonna help everybody,” said Chuck Hurley, vice president of The Family Leader, a conservative religious advocacy group. “So thanks for doing this.”


No one spoke against the overall thrust of the legislation during the Wednesday subcommittee meeting, but school advocates worried that timelines for book reviews and potential punitive procedures were too strict.

“This is largely what we were already doing,” said Emily Piper, who represents the Iowa Association of School Boards. “We already adopt board policies. We already have policies for (book) reconsideration.”

The law would force school districts that the state determines have violated the new curriculum and book publication requirements to correct the violations within 14 days or face mandatory fines of between $500 and $5,000.

Further, licensed educators whose violations lead to enforcement actions would also be reported to the state regulators who approve and revoke licenses.

“We would request that the State Board (of Education) have some flexibility in terms of that rather than forcing their hand,” Piper said.

The new legislation would also require high school students to take a civics test that is used by the federal government to determine whether to grant citizenship to foreign-born residents. School districts would report those test results to the state.

“I think we’ve come a long way,” said Rep. Henry Stone, a Forest City Republican who led the meeting. “Everybody has indicated that there’s nobody registered against the bill, which is good. It means that all the work that was done last year was taken seriously, moved forward and put into this bill.”


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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.