April 1, 2022

By Joe Setyon

Why is the Goldwater Institute’s academic transparency reform so crucial? Why is it so important to protect parents’ right to know what their children are going to learn in taxpayer-funded K-12 schools before they make an enrollment decision?

Addressing the Arizona House Appropriations Committee this week, Goldwater’s Matt Beienburg, Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy and Director of Education Policy, summed up the reason perfectly:

“A parent shouldn’t have to have their child in a school, find material that is clearly not academically appropriate, and now be faced with a decision of grumbling to a school board who may or may not be sympathetic to them, or take their kid out of school, away from their friends, their established environment,” Beienburg told lawmakers.

“It’s essential that parents be able to—as a school choice state—be able to look at this and say, ‘What is the actual information that’s being taught at the schools?’, take that into account, and decide, ‘Yes, this does look like a school that’s prioritizing academics.’ And again, folks are going to disagree about what is political or what is appropriate, but to make that information available for current parents, prospective parents, the public, and other teachers to be able to see that information shouldn’t be something that’s controversial.”

In Arizona, families have access to a rich landscape of educational options for their children, yet lack some of the most basic information about whether their locally assigned district schools will truly meet their needs and preferences. In particular, schools too often provide prospective parents almost zero visibility into the actual materials that students will encounter, leaving parents blind to the quality of academic content and unable to exercise informed school choice.

Goldwater’s academic transparency reform, which passed the Arizona Senate earlier this month and has inspired similar legislation moving in states across the country, would require public schools to disclose a list of instructional materials and activities used during the academic year on a publicly accessible portion of their website. That way, parents can exercise meaningful school choice and ensure they send their students—and the formula dollars associated with their students—to institutions that promote academic rigor rather than political indoctrination.

Parents are demanding this reform, and current and former teachers are taking a public stand in favor of it. As Arizona public school teacher Jessica McDermitt wrote recently in RealClearPolicy: “Parents deserve to know what their children are hearing, discussing, and learning at school — where they spend half of their day and often more.”

Fed-up parents don’t deserve to be stonewalled and bullied by public education officials. They don’t deserve to be charged thousands of dollars in public records fees just for seeking simple answers. And they shouldn’t have to yank their kids out of school because there’s simply no other way out.

They deserve to know what their children are learning. And they deserve to be able to access that information before they decide what educational style best meets their children’s needs.  

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