Keep Politics Out of the Classroom with Sunlight in Learning
Here’s how Sunlight in Learning works
Kids are being exposed to radical political content in America’s K-12 classrooms. Racially divisive ideologies like Critical Race Theory are being forced on our kids, and parents are left in the dark. Many don’t even know what’s being taught to their children because schools are going out of their way to keep it secret.
There’s a solution: The Sunlight in Learning Act. This powerful new law developed by the Goldwater Institute ensures that parents know what their children are being taught. Under this law, public schools would be required to publish a list of instructional materials and activities used during the academic year on a publicly accessible portion of its website. Sunlight in Learning protects parents’ rights by bringing true academic transparency to America’s public schools.
Learn more about the problem - and our solutions - below.
Politically charged supplemental materials like the New York Times 1619 Project have spread to classrooms across the country WITHOUT school boards, parents, or the public even knowing. These materials are often not included in the officially adopted “curriculum,” but are simply slipped into the classroom:
“[Within 4 months of its publication], the 1619 Project has been adopted in more than 3,500 classrooms in all 50 states. It is mostly being used as supplemental, optional classroom teaching material. By and large, school systems are adopting the project by administrative fiat, not through a public textbook review process.” --RealClearInvestigations, January 2020
Do you know which schools use the 1619 Project in your state? Do parents?
As of January 2020, just 4 months after its release
How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram Kendi, states: “The most threatening racist movement is … the regular American’s drive for a race-neutral” state…“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, states “I strive to be ‘less white.‘ To be less white is to be less racially oppressive”
In 2020, Tucson Unified School District (30,000+ students) Week 1 of 12th Grade American Government had a stated learning objective: “Students will be able to: [identify] components of a well-functioning constitutional republic, including concepts such as democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.”
But the actual instructional materials to achieve this goal included: “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”, “Chicano! Fighting for Political Power”, “The Constitution and the Political Legacy of Slavery”, Malcom X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet”, with materials such as the Constitution itself an optional resource.
Federal law and many states’ existing statutes make clear parents’ rights to review instructional materials used in their children’s schools. But these laws provide no mechanism for parents to meaningfully exercise this right—often forcing parents to travel to a district facility during specified hours (such as during the work day when the parents themselves are working or providing childcare) to see a glimpse of the content being used. Even worse, many parents who ask their teachers or schools to see curricula are increasingly told to submit formal public records requests to their districts just to see actual classroom content. These schools then charge hundreds--sometimes thousands--of dollars:
In 2021, Rhode Island mother Nicole Solas asked her local school district to see what materials her incoming kindergarten daughter would encounter. After instructing her to submit formal records requests, her district threatened her with a lawsuit, demanded $74,000 to fulfill her requests, and welcomed the National Education Association suing to block her access to records.
Wisconsin school districts were “asked for teaching materials used in a handful of English and social studies classes at one to two of the district’s high schools.” Many districts demanded between $350 - $5,250 before they would provide access to them.
“A public school district in Minnesota told a law firm representing concerned parents that it could cost upwards of $901,121.15 to complete a government records request… The request asked the Rochester Public School District to release information on the development of curriculum, conferences, or seminars for teachers and students related to “equity and social justice topics often referred to as Critical Race Theory.” Specific words that the group was concerned about included ‘equity, social justice, cultural competency, race, intersectionality, or CRT.’ ”
Arizona parents’ experience published in the state’s largest newspaper: “When we requested pertinent emails from the district using the Freedom of Information Act...Instead of providing transparency, the curriculum director provided the teacher with advice on hiding topics from us... The school staff also projected annoyance and frustration for having to engage with parents who had dared to ask to see curriculum… District officials finally admitted that the district didn’t actually have any written curriculum. Instead, it was allowing teachers to develop their own curriculum by pulling links from websites.”
Under the Academic Transparency Act model legislation, each public school would disclose a listing of the actual instructional materials and activities the school used during the academic year on a publicly accessible portion of its website.
Parents should be able to compare content awaiting at nearby schools before they have to enroll their children, and have the same kind of 21st century access to it as other school information that’s posted online.
Teachers should be encouraged to see what other great teachers are using, rather than spending countless hours reinventing the wheel and trying to build their classroom curricula from scratch.
Schools should not be hiding content from current or prospective parents: Reporting broad, officially adopted ‘curriculum’ frameworks, basic textbooks, etc. is no longer enough.
“Parents and students in North Carolina need and deserve transparency... This includes lessons, materials, resources that are used in the classroom.”
“As a former Wake County teacher, 20 years ago I provided all of this information. I turned in my lesson plans to my principal. Doing it electronically now would be so much simpler than what I was expected to do.”
“Everyone benefits from this bill... This is a great collaborative effort for teachers and educators to find other resources that are effectively being used across the state and posting those and making them available for their colleagues…So all of this is stuff that I had to do as a teacher that now as a parent I would greatly appreciate. And I really appreciate the theme of transparency…”
--Kelly M., North Carolina teacher and parent
(Testimony to North Carolina House of Representatives
Education Committee on House Bill 755)
I have served 8 years in the United States Army and have been in the education and policy sphere for the last 30 years... [Texas bill] HB 28 seeks to preserve the education of Texas public school students by protecting our students from divisive, inaccurate teachings; by providing educators with access to civics training programs; and by requiring curriculum transparency….
Your vote and support for HB 28 will…provide parents with greater transparency of their children’s teaching materials and classroom content.
--Richard A. Johnson, EdD,
Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Booker T. Washington
Initiative and educator for more than 20 years
(Testimony to the Texas House Public Education Committee on Texas bill HB28)
“This bill is firstly and most importantly about transparency of a government entity, our public schools, and it requires the participation of school boards, educators and parents….I believe that this bill will be a national model for other states to follow.
The single most important topic in this bill is that parents, taxpayers, and school board members are empowered, empowered with more transparency and an expectation for accountability for what is taught in our schools in Wyoming.”
--Jillian Balow State Superintendent of Public Instruction and teacher in WY classrooms for 10 years,
"Last year, I left my job as a public high school teacher in Salinas, California, after 5 years ... Since teachers at the school used the same online platform for lesson plans and learning materials, I was able to access the ethnic studies lessons . While I expected to see plenty of America-bashing, what I found legitimately shocked me: Just about every single lesson had some element of critical race theory in it.
Children were learning about the so-called four I’s of oppression (institutional, internalized, ideological, and interpersonal). The course syllabus said students would use colored strings to "rank" their different identities to create "intersectional rainbows." And the class even included a "privilege quiz" instructing students to determine how marginalized—or privileged—they were.
But parents deserve the truth about what their children are learning. That’s why it’s so important to fix the system by requiring public schools to post a listing of their learning materials online.
Public schools are trying to divide the next generation of Americans based on race. There’s a word for that—racism. But parents—and teachers who truly care about their students—can fight back. They can demand transparency. Read more here."
--Kali Fontanilla High School English Language Teacher
Today’s status quo wastes teachers’ time and expects them to scour the internet for resources. As former teacher Robert Pondiscio wrote:
“Ask how you expect [teachers] to do all those things at a high level while spending precious hours every week creating curricula from scratch. Nearly half of teachers…reported spending more than four hours per week developing or selecting their own instructional materials.”
As former North Carolina teacher, Kelly M. testified to her state legislature about Academic Transparency: “This is a great collaborative effort for teachers and educators to find other resources that are effectively being used across the state and posting those and making them available for their colleagues…”
Random sample of 1,316 teachers from national database of 200,000 public school teachers
“In total, teachers spent more than 12 hours each week creating or searching for materials, either free or for a fee. If there are four weeks in a month, teachers spent 50 hours each month on these tasks, taking away significant time from analyzing data, communicating with parents, and diagnosing specific student needs”
Academic Transparency would help--especially younger, more inexperienced--teachers look to the most effective veteran educators to quickly see what they’re using, saving hours they would otherwise spend scouring the Internet on their own.
Free and low-cost solutions already exist to easily implement Academic Transparency. Online document sharing services, like Google Docs or DropBox allow educators to post and collaboratively share their syllabi and materials. Others like PlanBookEdu allow teachers to easily enter and organize their lesson plans online, sharing them alongside any documents, presentations or other materials with peers, parents, and the public.
“The bill requires schools to post online a list of the specific instructional materials being presented—so that current and prospective parents can see for themselves whether the content awaiting their kids is academically rigorous, or ideologically extreme.”
“Public school officials should give all members of the public comprehensive access in-person and online to school curricular materials including syllabi, lists of textbooks, and teacher-created assignments and books, worksheets”
The policy proposal is designed to provide public school parents with easy access—directly on school websites—to materials and activities used to train staff and teachers and to instruct children.
“This proposal is starting to catch fire across the country. It has been introduced in Texas and Illinois, and passed in the Arizona state Senate and the North Carolina state House, and recently passed out of committee in the Wisconsin state House…Wyoming became the latest state to take up this proposal”
Many of the same sort of establishment special interests who said it was akin to killing kids and teachers to let students go to school during the pandemic now say that bringing sunlight into our schools is “abusive,” “censorship,” “bullying,” “fascism,” “harassment,” and akin to “book burning.”
Others object to the idea of teachers sharing their materials with peers because they might not “get credit” from someone else using their materials.
“Bullying and Censorship”
“Harassment and intimidation…a conspiracy to precent students from learning history”
Curriculum transparency will chill speech
Learn more about the latest news, articles, research, and investigations from the Goldwater Institute on CRT and radical politics in schools:
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