Negotiators advance bill with sex education provisions

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, May 3, 2016 10:48pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Legislative negotiators on Tuesday adopted a state Senate rewrite of Rep. Wes Keller’s bill dealing with parental involvement in education and student testing that was previously rejected by the House.

The bill adopted by the committee calls for sex education to be taught by certified teachers under contract with a given school or someone under a teacher’s supervision who has been approved by the local school board and whose credentials are made available for parental review. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, Jessica Cler, said that would create further barriers for students to receive comprehensive sex education.

The House twice previously failed to agree to that version of the bill. But Keller, R-Wasilla, said Tuesday that he thinks he has the votes for the Senate version to now clear the House. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth the effort,” he said.

While legislative leaders have indicated a desire to try to limit the focus during the extended legislative session to bills related to the budget and state revenue, Senate President Kevin Meyer said it didn’t appear that a lot of time would be needed on Keller’s bill. He said Keller told him he’d had time to talk with fellow House members about it. The conference committee was an opportunity to take another shot at passage, Meyer said in a recent interview.

“If it fails this time, then we’re done,” Meyer said.

The bill is broad, touching on parental involvement in education, greater local control and student testing. Among other things, it calls on local school boards to adopt policies recognizing the rights of parents to object to and withdraw their children from required state tests, activities or classes and to give parents two weeks’ notice of any sex education classes.

It also calls for a two-year break in required standardized state tests and for a plan to develop or select statewide tests approved by school districts. The break would be lifted if the federal government threatens to withhold education funds for not testing.

But perhaps the most contentious provisions in the bill deal with who can teach sex education. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and a conference committee member, said the bill does not ban anyone from presenting on sex education — it just requires they get school board approval to do so.

Cler said the provisions would make sex education the hardest subject to teach and approve in the state.

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