November 8, 2021

A functioning democracy depends on transparency: The people must know what the government is doing. That’s especially true today, given the COVID-19 pandemic, violence in the streets, and the many ways teachers unions and politicians have flouted parents’ concerns about what’s happening in their kids’ classrooms.

For years, the Goldwater Institute and its American Freedom Network (AFN) of pro bono attorneys have been at the forefront of holding government accountable. And at a recent Goldwater Institute webinar, we spotlighted our work to ensure that citizens are able to learn what their public officials are up to.

This year has been an especially auspicious one for these fights: We won a five-year battle against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and we’ve led high-profile battles in defense of parents in Rhode Island and Virginia who are being harassed by teachers unions and school boards.

One of those parents, Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas, shared her story at our webinar. Nicole tried to find out what her daughter would be taught in kindergarten—specifically whether she’d be exposed to divisive topics like Critical Race Theory. But her school district ignored her questions for months, and when she filed a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, it refused to comply. We intervened on her behalf, with help from AFN attorney Giovanni Cicione of the Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights—only to have the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, sue Nicole in an attempt to stay production of the documents!

Just as parents like Nicole have a right to know what their kids are learning in school, Americans have the right to know when government agencies bend the rules. In 2016, as part of our work to protect medical patients’ Right To Try medicines that might save their lives, we submitted a request to the FDA for public records regarding its expanded access program—which is critical to helping terminal individuals access medical assistance. By law, the FDA was supposed to respond to our request within 20 days. But after four years of ignoring our requests, we teamed up with AFN attorneys from healthcare law firm Frier Levitt to hold the FDA accountable. Lead attorney Nicole DeWitt represented Goldwater in a lawsuit to force the FDA to obey the law—and finally, almost five years to the day of our original request, it produced the requested documents. 

Americans should not have to engage attorneys and wait years to receive information they’re entitled to from government bureaucrats. The Goldwater Institute and AFN are committed to holding the government accountable for its actions and advocating for transparency through litigation and legislative efforts.

To read more about the Goldwater Institute’s efforts to shine a light on what kids are being taught in school, visit https://goldwaterinstitute.org/academictransparency/.

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