April 11, 2022

By Matt Beienburg

Arizona has taken a giant step toward passing a new law that would help ensure parents know what is being taught in their children’s classroom—and it’s a measure that is overwhelmingly supported by Arizona voters, as statewide poll results show.

Members of the Arizona House of Representatives recently advanced the state’s landmark academic transparency legislation toward a full vote and final passage. The bill, SB 1211, which would require that the materials used in Arizona’s taxpayer funded public K-12 schools are disclosed online, recently passed the full state senate, and the legislation has already been hailed by Governor Ducey as an education policy priority.

Heavily left-leaning interest groups ranging from the ACLU to the Arizona Education Association have mobilized in opposition to the legislation—admitting, for instance, that it would hinder activists’ ability to push ideologies on race and gender and falsely claiming it would require teachers to plan all of their materials an entire year in advance.

But statewide polling conducted by Data Orbital has found overwhelming support for the academic transparency legislation among Arizonans. By a more than 3-1 margin (72.4 percent in favor vs. 19.6 percent opposed), Arizona registered voters have signaled extraordinary support for state legislation that would “require K-12 district and charter public schools to post all aspects of their curriculum to their website,” including all materials used in addition to official textbooks.

Conducted 10/16/21 – 10/18/21, n = 550 respondents

Amid a sea of incidents of racialized, politicized instruction in Arizona alone, the state’s conservative lawmakers have taken up parents’ call to restore the academic integrity our K-12 schools. As Representative Joanne Osborne explained in voting for the measure during the House committee hearing, for instance:

“I’m a daughter of a teacher, I’m a niece of teachers, I’m the mother of teachers, so I do understand that teachers really, really do want to help kids. But I’m also a mother of four, and a grandmother of four, and we’re in a time and a place in our lives that more than ever, parents want to be back as a partner with our schools and with our teachers. They want to know what’s going on… And so I’m a yes on this because we need that partnership. We need to build that bridge.”

As Representative John Kavanagh likewise noted in support:

“This does not require the copying and publication of all these materials. It’s just the titles and identifying information…So people can go on Google or… get information about them, and if they feel that there’s an issue, they can call the school. But you know what, you can’t call the school and ask to see a document if you don’t know what the document’s name is …Parents want to see this.”

As Arizona teachers and their colleagues around the nation have written and testified in support of similar measures, this legislation will not only empower parents, but will also support educators as well—providing a window into the instructional materials used by our most successful schools and teachers, rather than leaving brand new teachers to scour the internet for hours each week hunting for unvetted materials—of often mediocre quality.

Opponents of SB 1211 have suggested that parents who are concerned about the materials used at their kids’ schools ought to be expected to simply pack up and pull their kids out of their environment. “Arizona is a school choice state,” argued one lawmaker opposed to the bill, “so parents could choose to go to another school. That could be their recourse.” But parents should never be put in this situation in the first place. Rather, parents deserve to know what type of content awaits their kids before they’ve set roots in a given environment alongside friends and community. So it’s no surprise that the same Data Orbital polling found that when asked, “Do you think that parents should be able to compare curricul[a] between schools prior to enrollment to find the best learning environment for their child?”, 88 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative.

SB 1211 offers an extraordinary opportunity to improve the collaboration between and among teachers and parents. This reform will strengthen the quality of instruction, bring transparency to the materials in use, and help ensure that no child is subjected to political activism in place of academic enrichment.

You can read more about Goldwater’s work to keep politics out of the classroom with academic transparency here.

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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