Echoing the frustration and distrust felt by parents across the nation about public school education, lawmakers in at least 20 states have introduced measures to ensure parents’ access to what their children are being taught in the classroom.
Those Republican-backed measures, commonly referred to as curriculum transparency bills, require public schools to make available online all their teaching materials. Some of them are single-subject bills, while others exist as part of boarder “parents’ bills of rights,” which rest on the idea that parents should have the right to obtain critical information about what is being provided in the classroom and to take action when they feel that the quality or content of the education does not align with their values.
For example, Kansas House Bill 2662 seeks to affirm the right for parents to be informed of and have the ability to inspect any curriculum, syllabuses, surveys, tests, books, and any other materials or activities. To protect such rights, each school district in the state must open an “academic transparency portal” on its website to provide this information in each school.
As of March 9, there are ongoing legislative efforts to push for curriculum transparency in 18 states, namely Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
Proponents of the curriculum transparency bills see these measures as a common-sense approach. Carrie Lukas, a Virginia-based mother and leader of conservative advocacy group Independent Women’s Forum, said it is critically important to keep parents informed in their children’s learning process.
“I think that parents absolutely should have the right to see what their kids are being taught,” Lukas told The Epoch Times. “Obviously it doesn’t mean that the parents get to police every lesson, and obviously there are going to be times when parents disagree or don’t like one book or whatever, but parents should have this right.”
“If they are teaching about a subject that I think is off or that the view offered by the school is not my view, at least I get to explain my side of the story,” she added. “I don’t see what possible reason the schools could give that this isn’t right for parents to know what they’re teaching their children in a K–12 public school. These are still kids. Parents are still supposed to have a big role in deciding what these kids are learning, what they are exposed to. I think it’s indefensible to think that we shouldn’t have access to students’ curriculum.”
In some states, however, curriculum transparency bills met almost immediate pushback from Democrats and progressive activist organizations, especially teachers unions that have generated anger among parents because of their push for school mask and vaccine mandates and race-centered concepts like critical race theory (CRT).
“This bill is insulting, burdensome, and will not succeed in increasing transparency, but will certainly succeed in driving people from our profession,” said Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews, referring to the now-pulled House Bill 234. The bill would have required public school teachers in Utah to make available online all curriculums, class syllabuses, and associated materials they plan to use for instruction.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 1332, arguing that his state already allows parents to file requests to view public school curriculum and additional materials, and therefore requiring all public schools to post the information on their websites is “not only duplicate, but overly burdensome.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has also vetoed a pro-transparency anti-CRT bill passed by the Republican-majority state Legislature. While Evers didn’t take issue with the idea of parents having access to teaching materials, he argued that the bill as a whole would prevent students from learning about “honest, complete” history.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which actively seeks to block anti-CRT laws that ban schools from promoting race-based differential treatment in K–12 classrooms, has also opposed curriculum transparency measures.
“Some of these so-called ‘curriculum transparency bills’ are thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning and talking about race and gender in schools,” said Emerson Sykes, an ACLU staff attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues. He didn’t specify why making teaching materials publicly accessible would discourage classroom discussions about race and gender.
Christopher Rufo, an author and filmmaker best known for exposing how CRT infiltrates American schools and businesses, helped develop a model curriculum transparency bill that lawmakers can use as a template in their own legislatures. He said that the heated debate over a non-threatening, politically-neutral concept like transparency will give parents a better idea about what agenda the opposing side is trying to push.
“The Left will expect that, after passing so-called ‘CRT bans’ last year, we will overplay our hand,” Rufo wrote on Twitter. “By moving to curriculum transparency, we will deflate that argument and bait the Left into opposing ‘transparency,’ which will raise the question: what are they trying to hide?”