One New Jersey lawmaker has introduced two bills increasing transparency in schools so parents and caregivers are no longer in the dark about what's happening in their children's classrooms.

"Parents don't want to be surprised when their child comes home and tells them what happened in school. They don't want decisions about education and curriculum being made in darkness and relative secrecy," said Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris.

One bill amends current law to require school boards to post full board meeting agendas on their websites 48 hours before the start of the meeting. The agenda must include a detailed description of each item on the docket.

The second bill brings transparency to lesson plans and textbooks used in schools. Under the legislation, school districts must post curriculum plans for each course offered to students at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the school year. Additionally, districts would be required to make textbooks and other course material available for review before they are incorporated into classroom instruction.

Pennacchio said it's important that parents know what's exactly in those textbooks and what the kids are learning. That way, parents can be engaged with the teachers and the school boards in order to give the kids the highest quality of education.

After closely observing their children through more than a year of remote learning and hearing about controversial issues being advanced by some school districts, Pennacchio said many parents are now becoming more engaged than ever in the education process.

For example, in Randolph, there was an issue about getting rid of Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People's Day. Pennacchio said parents got angry because they saw it as a domino effect of getting rid of one holiday and moving on to another.

He said it is vital to keep parents engaged about their children's education process. Parents and others who are taxpayers need to know how everything is being funded.

"If you take a look at your property tax bill, in many instances, 60 to 75% of that bill deals with what? The education of our children," Pennacchio said.

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