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North Carolina GOP lawmakers want to require teaching 'balanced political viewpoints' in schools

T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in News & Features

RALEIGH, N.C. — Some North Carolina Republican lawmakers want to require school districts — but not charter schools — to provide "balanced political discussions in classrooms" and to list their instructional materials online.

Proposed legislation filed Wednesday in the General Assembly requires that if the viewpoint of one of the two major political parties is presented, then equal time must be given to the other party's viewpoint. The legislation comes amid complaints from conservatives who say public schools are promoting a liberal social justice agenda.

The primary sponsors of Senate Bill 700 are all Republicans: Sens. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County, Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County and Ralph Hise of Mitchell County. The News & Observer couldn't reach them for comment Wednesday.

But at least some teachers accused lawmakers of showing a lack of trust in them.

"If they can't feel like they can trust us to do our jobs, then let's trade jobs," Rodney D. Pierce, an eighth grade social studies teacher in Nash County Public Schools, said in an interview Wednesday. "Let us be the legislators and you come to teach."

Pierce was one of the educators who helped draft the state's new social studies standards that supporters say will promote the viewpoints of historically underrepresented groups. But critics, including GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, charge the new standards are "leftist indoctrination."

Robinson recently formed a new task force to collect complaints from parents, students and teachers about "indoctrination" in the classroom.

Conservative activists have formed a new statewide teachers association, the Carolina Teachers Alliance, "to provide the highest quality, unbiased and achievement-driven education to all children." The group charges that there's a lack of transparency about what instructional materials are used.

 

The new legislation says the State Board of Education shall require that all curriculum, professional development and teaching standards used to implement instruction in school districts "reflect balanced political viewpoints."

"When the viewpoint of one of the two major political parties in the United States is presented through materials, assignments, lectures or other instruments for instruction in any classroom or other area of the school, the viewpoint of the alternative political party shall also be presented and given equal weight during the same instructional unit," according to the legislation.

In addition, the legislation says school districts must list on their websites the instructional materials and activities that were used during the prior school year. The law would exempt school districts that have fewer than 500 students from posting their materials.

Pierce, the social studies teacher, said the law is not needed because teachers already present balanced viewpoints in class and make their instructional materials available for review.

But critics have complained about school activities in Wake County such as watching a Black Lives Matter protest video and students filling out an online survey that listed Republicans as being at fault for the "current problems with our government."

The legislation specifically exempts charter schools from its requirements. Charter schools are taxpayer funded schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow.

"You (bill sponsors) somewhat trust charters but you don't trust traditional public schools," Pierce said. "My instincts would tell me that your children or grandchildren go to those schools and you don't want them beholden to the laws you pass but you don't care if other people's children or grandchildren are beholden to the laws."

(c)2021 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.