December 22, 2020

2020 was a year like no other, but despite the difficulties our country has been facing, the Goldwater Institute has been working to overcome these hurdles and continue our efforts to help Americans lead freer, happier lives. This week, we take a look back at some of the work Goldwater has done in 2020 to take on the challenges of our times.

The coronavirus pandemic upended daily life for all Americans, but the effects have been especially challenging for children as schools across the country closed their doors. Uncertain schedules, technology hurdles, the lack of interaction with friends and teachers—these are just a few of the difficulties kids are facing every day.

When so much about students’ learning experiences seems up in the air, greater educational freedom can provide the options kids and families need to get through this crisis and to give them the education that best fits their needs after this outbreak. Here’s what the Goldwater Institute is doing to bring that freedom and flexibility to more students:

We’re helping children get the custom education they deserve. Education savings accounts—or ESAs—are one option that’s helping thousands of families have choice in education. An idea pioneered at the Goldwater Institute, ESAs take a portion of what a state would spend covering the cost of a student’s education in a K-12 public school and instead deposits that money into a personalized account—money that can be used to pay for tuition, tutoring, or teaching tools.

Six states currently offer ESAs to selected students, and the Goldwater Institute is leading the charge to expand ESAs across the country. Earlier this year, we worked to pass a law in Arizona that gives families of the Navajo Nation the unequivocal right to continue their children’s education at the school of their choice through the state’s ESA program. And in Utah, the state adopted an ESA-style scholarship for children with special needs, just like successful programs in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

We’re fighting for special needs children in court. ESAs have been a boon for families of children with special needs—that is, until government gets in the way. The Arizona Department of Education made it all but impossible for scores of families to use the ESA program consistently by withholding funds, threatening to remove them from the program, and constantly changing its own rules. For these families, the experience has been frustrating, nerve-wracking, and patently unfair. In January, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on their behalf to ensure they can utilize the program as intended.

The case turned out to be a game-changer for Arizona’s ESA families: In the fall, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted needed regulatory reforms and protections for families in the ESA program, addressing the concerns of parents represented by Goldwater’s lawsuit.

We’re working to ensure parents know what their children are being taught. As millions of schoolchildren have been forced into remote learning during the pandemic, one thing has become abundantly clear: Despite their children being instructed from the comfort of their homes, parents still know little, if anything, of what their children are being taught in school except by accident—or unless they ask. Incredibly, some schools are even attempting to prevent parents from finding out what’s being taught.

The need to ensure transparency in curriculum became all the more evident this year as leftists foisted a new, perverted view of America on our nation’s students by way of the 1619 Project, a school curriculum that would change how U.S. history is taught, marking 1619, the year slaves arrived in the Virginia colony, as “our nation’s foundational date.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg of progressives’ demands to change how children are being educated. To combat this dangerous direction in K-12 education, this year the Goldwater Institute launched a new proposal for academic transparency, and we’re calling on states to pass legislation that grants parents the right to review the content used in their children’s classrooms.

We launched a new center to defend America’s founding principles. Goldwater was proud to announce the creation of a new avenue to defend our founding principles and instill those values into our next generation of Americans—the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy. In what is the largest gift in the Goldwater Institute’s history, Barbara and Logan Van Sittert have generously funded this permanent center—the second of its kind at the Institute. Thanks to the Van Sitterts’ vision, the Goldwater Institute will be able to greatly expand its work in defending constitutional rights and promoting an understanding, appreciation, and support for the U.S. Constitution, including in K-12 education.

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