March 1, 2022

By Matt Beienburg

With a decisive vote Monday, the Wyoming state Senate became the latest legislative body to heed parents’ calls for academic transparency in K-12 education.

The Civics Transparency Act, which passed by an 18-12 margin, empowers parents to find out what’s being taught in their local schools by ensuring that all materials used in government-operated K-12 schools are disclosed to parents and the public.

“Not later than July 1, 2023, and each school year thereafter, each school district shall publish prominently on the school district’s website the following: (i) A list of the learning material and activities that were used for student instruction by the school district during the preceding school year,” reads the legislation, which was co-sponsored by Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader and Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, among others.

With this vote, Wyoming joins a host of other states who have not only introduced legislation requiring the online disclosure of public school instructional materials, but have already passed it through one or both chambers. The state legislatures of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania passed similar legislation in 2021 before left-leaning governors of each state vetoed the measures. Already in 2022, lawmakers in a growing number of other states, including Florida, IowaArizona, and Kansas, have now advanced bills through at least one committee or chamber.

While teachers union representatives in Wyoming and around the country have descended upon these bills in an effort to block transparency, senators from the “Equality State” recognized the cry from parents in their communities was too loud to ignore.

As one Wyoming mom testified to the Senate Education Committee prior to the bill’s passage, for instance, “I also came here on behalf of a lot of mom groups here in Cheyenne and all over Wyoming. So I just wanted to speak on behalf of parents and what we are going through.” Recounting the challenges she faced accessing information about newly adopted curricula in her school, the mom continued, “I went to the next teacher and asked, ‘What is my first-grader going to be learning this year?’, and she said, ‘Go talk to the principal.’ … I went to talk to the principal … and he couldn’t give me any information at all of what my daughter was going to be learning that year … and then he turned around and blamed us.”

“We are just wanting transparency,” the mom said. “There are some teachers who are willing to work with you,” she added, pointing out that “the school board ignores us most of the time … Nobody’s listening to the parents and the parents are frustrated. … All we’re asking for is more transparency and to work with the parents more. We’re getting shut out.”

Unfortunately, such tales mirror parent experiences across the nation. But thanks to the efforts of their state senators, parents in Wyoming are once step closer to prying open the black box of K-12 curricula.   

It’s long past time they succeeded.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute.

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