August 11, 2021

Today, the Goldwater Institute joined Wisconsin parents, policy experts, and lawmakers to testify in favor of groundbreaking new legislation that will bring transparency to education and help stop the politicization of K-12 public schools in the Badger State.

Co-sponsored by more than two dozenstate lawmakers, including state education committee chairs Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Wisconsin’s Senate Bill 463 (and its companion version, Assembly Bill 488) would require public schools to disclose to parents and the public a listing of the actual materials making their way in front of students in K-12.  

Adapted from the Goldwater Institute’s model academic transparency legislation now advancing in multiple states, the bill would ensure that radical, ideological materials will no longer land on students’ desks without public awareness, and that parents will no longer be expected to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to extract curriculum information through expensive public records requests.

Instead, under the bill, public schools will proactively make this information available to parents, posting online the bibliographic information necessary to identify the specific learning materials used in their classrooms, “including the title and the author, organization or internet address associated with each specific learning material or educational activity.” With these requirements in place, parents will, for the first time, have reliable, easy access to the universe of materials their kids are encountering.

Speaking before the members of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly Education Committees about the proposed legislation, Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg shared the urgent need for, and practical benefits of, restoring transparency to our education system:

“In K-12 schools across the country, politically charged content is spreading at an extraordinary pace throughout nearly every grade and subject, and yet parents are blocked when they try to pull back the curtains of what our public schools are actually teaching.”

Parents, that is, like Nicole Solas—whom the Institute has stepped in to defend against efforts by her local school district and the nation’s largest teachers’ union to stifle her requests for basic curriculum information for her daughter, and her district’s attempt to charge her $74,000 for legally required public records.

Unfortunately, as noted by Libby Sobic—Director and Legal Counsel of Education Policy at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL)—who spoke alongside Beienburg, parents, and other educators in support of the bill, similar efforts by WILL to obtain basic curriculum information from Wisconsin public schools have been met with delays, obfuscation, and district demands for tens of thousands of dollars for what school officials apparently consider the privilege of accessing this content.

As Beienburg urged lawmakers:

“If you believe parents have a right to know what sort of materials their students will encounter—before they are forced to make such a monumental decision such as the enrollment and education of their kids—or that teachers should be encouraged to share, not jealously guard the ingredients of a successful selection of materials that are already visible within the school walls, then I strongly encourage you to join with the parents and sponsors in support of this legislation.”

Lawmakers in Wisconsin have the opportunity to empower parents with academic transparency and stem the tide of politics in the classroom. The Goldwater Institute stands ready to support legislators and parents across the nation in achieving this vital reform.

To learn more about this reform, please contact Heather Curry at hcurry@goldwaterinstitute.org.

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