Frequently Searched

$1,300 for a Book List? Goldwater Fights School District’s Outrageous Demand

August 30, 2022

It started with a simple request from concerned Fort Worth, Texas, parent Jenny Crossland: what books will my daughter be reading in school? She expected to receive a list of reading materials in response. Instead, the Fort Worth Independent School District told her they’d be refusing her request unless she paid $1,267.50.

But this outrageous lack of transparency is not an outlier. Now, the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network (AFN) of pro bono attorneys is stepping in to hold the Fort Worth ISD accountable for imposing prohibitive charges that keep parents in the dark.

Jenny, who was trying to determine where to send her daughter when she starts kindergarten next year, filed a public records request for lists of books that K-12 students are required to read and that teachers can choose from for their classes. It’s simple information—the kind that ought to be shared with parents in a timely manner. But the district told Jenny it would take a whopping 84.5 hours of labor to pull the lists together—and demanded a $1,267.50 payment.

Then earlier this month, another local mom, who recently pulled her 8th grade daughter out of the school district due in part to longstanding concerns over transparency, filed a request that sought similar information. And she received the same response: the district refused to turn over the book list unless the parents forked over $1,267.50.

That mom, who’s also a Goldwater Institute AFN attorney, filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office last week challenging the district’s excessive fee demand.

Texas law requires that any public records fees be reasonable and that, for records under 50 pages, fees be limited to photocopying charges. Further, governmental bodies in the state must abide by the attorney general’s cost rules when determining how much they will charge to produce public records. These rules explicitly state that the district can charge for the cost of labor “[o]nly if (1) there are more than 50 pages of copies, or (2) the information is kept in two or more separate buildings or in remote storage.” In this case, it is highly unlikely that a simple request for book lists qualifies for either one of these exceptions.

The public’s business should be open to the public—especially when it comes to the important work of educating students. But the laws governing public records requests can be confusing, and citizens are often unaware of their rights. The Goldwater Institute’s new guide gives parents the tools they need to file effective public records requests when the government tries to keep secrets. And the American Freedom Network of pro bono attorneys stands ready to help parents in every state access the information they’re entitled to.

But parents shouldn’t even need to file public records requests just to find out what’s being taught to their kids in taxpayer-funded schools. That’s why the Goldwater Institute is promoting its academic transparency law in states across the country. This common sense reform requires public schools to post learning materials online so that parents with questions about their child’s required reading—or any other aspect of their curriculum—can easily access it within seconds.

Around the nation, the Goldwater Institute will never stop working to shine a light on what’s happening in public school districts.

If you are interested in putting your legal skills and experience to practice in defense of liberty and would like to work on cases like this one as part of the Goldwater’s Institute’s American Freedom Network, please visit this page or contact Kamron Kompani at

Kamron Kompani is the Legal Programs Manager at the Goldwater Institute.



More on this issue

Donate Now

Help all Americans live freer, happier lives. Join the Goldwater Institute as we defend and strengthen freedom in all 50 states.

Donate Now

Since 1988, the Goldwater Institute has been in the liberty business — defending and promoting freedom, and achieving more than 400 victories in all 50 states. Donate today to help support our mission.

We Protect Your Rights

Our attorneys defend individual rights and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Need Help? Submit a case.

Get Connected to Goldwater

Sign up for the latest news, event updates, and more.