March 4, 2021
By Matt Beienburg
The Arizona State Senate passed a first-of-its kind bill to bring much-needed transparency to K-12 education, just as new revelations about controversial “anti-racist” training in Arizona schools have come to light.
Sponsored by state Senator Nancy Barto and crafted with the Goldwater Institute, SB 1058 requires public schools to post on their website a listing of the learning materials and activities (or the lesson plans themselves) used in the classroom each year, so that parents will know precisely what sort of content awaits their students.
The bill’s passage could not be timelier. A national movement that paints American society as a systemically racist culture in desperate need of radical reform has arrived in Arizona schools. According to a new report, “The Arizona Department of Education [ADE] has created an ‘equity’ toolkit claiming that babies show the first signs of racism at three months old,” with one ADE-recommended resource for educators reportedly arguing that “racial neutrality in schools” is a “tool of whiteness,” and another suggesting “white parents can and should begin addressing issues of race and racism early, even before their children can speak…countering it with anti-racist attitudes and actions.”
The news was uncovered by writer Chris Rufo, whose prolific reporting over the last year has unearthed everything from racially segregated “diversity” trainings taking place at the behest of federal contractors, to ideologically charged and racially divisive content being pushed in America’s public K-12 schools.
Educators in Arizona have already begun adopting similar resources, such as activist Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti-Racist which states, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination,” and Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, which similarly opines, “To be less white is to be less oppressive.”
To many, such ideologically driven, racially divisive content is troubling. But for parents, even more troubling is the inability to know whether such content awaits their children at school. As seen yet again just days ago in the Peoria Unified School District in Arizona, for example, parents have been blocked from accessing course content by administrators and school board members.
Yet perhaps numbered are the days where content can be pushed on kids in the dark. Under SB 1058, Arizona would help lead the way for parents across the nation to begin winning, in earnest, access to the course content awaiting their children.
Specifically, under the bill—adapted from the Goldwater Institute’s model Academic Transparency Act—each public school in Arizona would begin posting on a publicly accessible portion of its website:
- Whether or not there are any processes in place for the principal or other staff to document, review, or approve the learning materials and activities used at the school (e.g., via lesson plans submitted by teachers), or else a clear statement that the school has no process in place to document, review, or approve the content being presented to children.
- At each school where materials are reviewed, documented, or approved: a listing of the instructional materials and activities used during the school year, organized by subject and grade (or copies of the lesson plans submitted to the administration).
- Clear instructions for how parents can request access to specific materials used at the school.
As reported in a Goldwater Institute policy report, parents can already easily go online to access schools’ financial data, student performance scores, graduation and dropout rates, enrollment processes, and more. This bill would help bring the same level of online visibility to course content in a way many schools have already successfully demonstrated.
Importantly, SB 1058 promotes public transparency and accountability while preserving local control over the formulation of curriculum and instructional materials. Moreover, SB 1058 would in no way undermine teachers’ ability to implement effective teaching tools, nor implement burdensome new requirements on them such as scanning every page of their materials or requiring pre-approval of their content.
Rather, SB 1058 simply recognizes the fact schools already commonly document the materials being used, and that there is no reason these materials cannot be accounted for outside the school walls as well.
Indeed, as acknowledged even by the Vice President of the Arizona Education Association (AEA) during her testimony against the bill in the Senate Education Committee, “Every summer, every year, I reflect on how to plan the upcoming school year. I would update my curriculum. Weekly I implement lesson plans. I submit them to my principal, to my coach, to the district office. This is because I’m a professional. I follow the site and district and state policies.” SB 1058 would simply ensure that such materials—already made accessible to school administrators—could be accessible to parents as well (and in a form as inexpensive and easy as a Google Doc).
For families and lawmakers concerned about the proliferation of politically charged content in K-12, SB 1058 will provide a modern solution based on parental access to, and awareness of, classroom content—and it will give parents a fuller picture of what their children really are learning in school.
To read more about the roots of this trend toward so-called “anti-racist” material in America’s schools, read The New Social Justice Makes Everyone Guilty.
Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy and the Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy at the Goldwater Institute.