March 28, 2022

By Matt Beienburg

Just days after the Arizona State Senate passed the landmark Academic Transparency Act, policymakers in Florida have chalked up another victory over the nation’s teachers unions, with Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signing new legislation that advances online curriculum transparency in the K-12 schools of his state. 

Passed by nearly 2-1 margins in both chambers of the Florida legislature, HB 1467 requires that each school district “publish on its website, in a searchable format prescribed by the department, a list of all instructional materials,” so that parents and the public can see what’s being included in kids’ classroom learning. As Florida state law already made clear:

“Each district school board is responsible for the content of all instructional materials and any other materials used in a classroom, made available in a school library, or included on a reading list, whether adopted and purchased from the state-adopted instructional materials list, adopted and purchased through a district instructional materials program… or otherwise purchased or made available” to students.

Now, thanks to the newly signed legislation, parents will have a direct window into those materials. As Gov. DeSantis declared at the bill signing ceremony:

“What this is going to do, is it’s going to require transparency with respect to the materials that are being taught in classrooms or that are available in school libraries. And so if that’s something that is going to be used, then that is something that a parent would have the right to understand and know.”

This new achievement comes as states across the country are advancing legislation inspired by the Goldwater Institute’s Academic Transparency Act, calling for the comprehensive online disclosure of the learning materials used in each public K-12 classroom.

Indeed, partnering with parent and policy organizations across the country, Goldwater has helped lead the charge to ensure that parents can easily identify the specific learning materials going into classroom instruction before they are forced to enroll their student. With the proliferation of ideologically motivated curriculum programming, empowering parents with this ability is more important than ever. As Gov. DeSantis echoed Friday, when it comes to the infusion of politics in the classroom: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

States like Arizona and Florida have already long established themselves as leaders of educational freedom and as bulwarks of student-centric policies. Indeed, when the teachers unions successfully kept schools closed throughout much of the country in the fall of 2020, policymakers in both states ensured that families had access to in-person instruction. Now, both states are on the path to ensuring that those same families have the ability to see precisely what is being taught to their students in the course of that instruction.

As lawmakers across the country continue to advance the robust provisions contained in academic transparency legislation such as Arizona’s SB 1211, parents will continue to find themselves supported and empowered. National polling has already made clear that that 84 percent of voters believe that parents should be able to see the curriculum plans and materials for their children’s classes. The legislative steps being taken by these state lawmakers will help secure this access. Indeed, perhaps soon, sunlight will find its way to more than just the skies of Florida and Arizona, but to the classrooms of children nationwide.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy and Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute.

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