Minnesota Senate Republicans advanced a proposal Thursday to make it easier for parents to get access to school curriculum and require districts to notify them of their option to opt-out if they object to what their child is being taught in the classroom.

It's part of a package of "parents rights" legislation moving through the Minnesota Senate — and in more than a dozen other states across the country — that supporters argue would provide transparency and give parents more power over their children's education.

"With the closing of schools and distance learning, the silver lining of the whole thing is many parents got more involved in their kid's education," said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, the sponsor of the bill. "But as they began to hear some of what was being taught in the classroom, they were frustrated because they didn't feel like they had a voice."

The bill cleared the Senate floor, but not without opposition from Democrats, who described the proposal as an unnecessary and unfunded mandate on schools at a time when they're recovering from the toll of the pandemic. Minnesota law already gives parents access to their school district's curriculum.

Gazelka's bill goes a step further, requiring districts to provide that information to parents "without cost and immediately upon request." Districts must also notify parents about their option to seek alternative instruction at the beginning of each school year.

"This bill is not needed, we already agree that parents are partners, that parents should be engaged in our kids' education," said Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina. "This will create more unneeded work for teachers and schools, that is no question."

The teacher's union and Minnesota Democrats in control of the House oppose the measure, making it unlikely it will be enacted into law this session. But the debate on the Senate floor Thursday was a preview of what is being positioned as a top campaign issue this fall, when all 201 seats in the Legislature and the governor's office are up for grabs.

Republicans nationally see the idea of parents rights as a winning message with suburban moms and dads frustrated after a roller-coaster two years of off-and-on distance learning. Republican Glenn Youngkin successfully used the idea of more parental control as a wedge issue in the race for governor of Virginia.

Gazelka is running for the Republican Party's nomination to challenge DFL Gov. Tim Walz this fall, along with Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who is also carrying parents rights legislation this session.

The most controversial measure in the Senate GOP package of bills, which would state a "fundamental right" of a parent to direct the "upbringing, education of their child," was removed from the Senate agenda one day before the vote but is expected to get a vote later in session.

LGBTQ advocacy groups criticized that bill as part of a similar effort in states such as Texas and Florida to marginalize transgender and gender nonconforming students. Supporters of the bill testified that they oppose the Minnesota State High School League's policy to open up girls' sports to transgender student-athletes, as well as a state Department of Education toolkit designed to support transgender students.

"We do believe one of the primary drivers behind this is to make a political power grab with a specific base that they lost in the last election," said Fran Hutchins, executive director of Equality Federation, a nonprofit that advocates on LBGTQ issues. "They are trying to appeal to parents by calling these parental rights bills, but we know these are actually school censorship and surveillance bills."

Senate Republicans said they ran out of time Thursday to take up the measure, as well as another proposal that would require teachers to post their syllabus online within the first two weeks of the school term and update it whenever they make material changes.

The chamber did unanimously pass a proposal Thursday to prohibit school boards from requiring people to state their home address in a public meeting. Democrats successfully amended the bill to allow school board members to ask in which city or township a testifier lives.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, the sponsor of the measure and chair of the chamber's education committee, said the proposal is meant to bring clarity for school boards and prevent a situation where a parent's address is shared widely on social media platforms.

"In the Minnesota Senate and the House, we do not require testifiers to give out home addresses," said Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. "That doesn't mean they can't have a process behind the scenes to make sure the parent lives in the district."