February 24, 2022

By Joe Setyon

An overwhelming majority of American voters—84 percent—agree that parents should be able to see the curriculum plans and materials for their children’s classes, according to a new poll.

The survey’s results provide more evidence that the American public largely supports parents’ right to be involved in their kids’ education. And they underscore the pressing need for Goldwater’s academic transparency reform, which requires public schools to post their learning materials online. To date, more than twenty state legislatures are considering transparency bills to give parents the knowledge they need about what their kids are learning in school.

Unfortunately, public school bureaucrats across the country are fighting hard to keep parents in the dark. Take Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas’ story, for instance. Concerned about the South Kingston School District teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender theory, Solas emailed the school principal and asked to see the curriculum before she enrolled her kindergarten-age daughter there. When she couldn’t get any answers, Goldwater stepped in and made an additional public records request on her behalf. Then, the school district said it would cost $74,000 to provide the simple information she sought. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest public sector teachers union, even sued to block Solas’ access to the materials.

Solas is far from the only parent who’s been ordered to jump through outrageous hoops just to find out what their child is learning.

In May, a Michigan public school district told parents it would cost a whopping $409,899.10 to access documents that included words like “Critical Race Theory,” “anti-racist,” “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.”

And last September, a group of parents and other concerned residents in Minnesota filed a public records request with the Rochester Public Schools district seeking documents related to “equity and social justice topics often referred to as Critical Race Theory (‘CRT’).” Nearly two months later, the school district replied, saying it could provide the requested public records—if the parents were willing to pay up to the tune of more than $900,000.

These are just a few instances of a troubling nationwide trend: When involved parents ask to see a curriculum, they’re often stonewalled and effectively shut down.

But there’s a solution. The best way to empower parents to have a say in their kids’ education is by shining a light on the lessons being taught in our classrooms. That’s why Goldwater is standing up for the rights of parents by advocating for the Academic Transparency Act. This common-sense reform requires public schools to publish a list of instructional materials and activities used during the academic year on a publicly accessible portion of their website. That way, parents can easily access information about what their kids are learning without having to go through cumbersome bureaucratic processes.

 “Our children’s education is not a game,” Solas told Arizona legislators earlier this month as she testified in favor of Arizona’s version of academic transparency legislation. “We just want to know what is being taught.”

Parents—and the American public in general—are clearly on board with academic transparency. It’s time lawmakers listened.

Joe Setyon is a Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.

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