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Week in Review: School Districts vs. Parents

October 9, 2021

Are our school districts really on parents’ side? The evidence recently suggests the opposite. Parents are concerned about controversial lessons like Critical Race Theory infiltrating their kids’ classrooms, about their kids falling behind after months and month of virtual learnings, about unions caring more about politics than kids, and about schools keeping information from them.

And in the midst of these worrying developments, government leaders and school districts are targeting parents for trying to get involved in their kids’ education. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the Goldwater Institute is defending two moms who are being targeted by their school district just for exercising their freedom of speech and trying to hold their school districts accountable.  

Fairfax-area moms Callie Oettinger and Debra Tisler

This week, Goldwater filed a motion with a Virginia judge to defend the rights of these moms—Debra Tisler and Callie Oettinger. Believing that her school district was spending too much money on legal fees, Debra requested documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, and the school board turned over more than 1,000 pages of paperwork—only to realize afterward that some of that information might be politically embarrassing. By that time, Callie had redacted and shared some of the documents—as she has a right to do under the First Amendment. Nevertheless, school officials sued both women, demanding that the court order the moms to return the documents—even though Debra had legally obtained them—and order Callie to take the information off her website.

But the Goldwater Institute’s got their back. You can read more about the moms’ story—and how Goldwater is stepping in on their behalf—here.

Public School-Political Complex Makes National Headlines

Callie and Debra’s story is the just the latest example of parents running headlong into the Public School-Political Complex—unions, school administrators, and politicians lashing out to defend their power, money, and political agenda when their authority is questioned.

Their plight follows closely behind the news that Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas was also targeted by her school district. After asking her school district what her daughter would be taught in kindergarten, she was stonewalled by her district and hit with a $74,000 bill for her records request. The National Education Association even hit her with a lawsuit for making her requests!

Rhode Island mom and Goldwater Institute client Nicole Solas joined “Fox & Friends First” this week.

Parents and taxpayers have had it—and that’s why these stories are making national headlines:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools’ case is “a shameful abuse of authority and a form of bullying by school officials who are the employees of [these moms],” the moms’ attorney, Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur, told Fox News this week. “For the school board to turn around and sue them for trying to be engaged citizens concerned about what’s going on in public schools their tax dollars pay for—it’s disgraceful and the school board should be ashamed of its behavior.”
  • On WMAL’s “O’Connor and Company,” Tisler and Sandefur talked about their lawsuit and the worrying trend of school districts trying to silence taxpayers and citizens.
  • And Nicole—who’s also represented by the Goldwater Institute—joined the Glenn Beck radio show to give an update on her case. She also gave her take on a new memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland that seeks to silence parents who are upset about their kids being exposed to divisive lessons like Critical Race Theory. You can hear the full interview with Nicole here. Nicole also joined Newsmax and Fox News for related segments.

Packing up a Good Education for Ohio Kids

We prepare our kids for school by putting all the supplies they’ll need in their backpacks. But now, some Ohio legislators are seeking to put something else in kids’ backpacks: the opportunity for a better education.

This week, Ohio House Republicans announced a new plan to give every school-age child an Education Savings Account (ESA) starting in the summer of 2023. Students from kindergarten through 8th grade would receive $5,500, and high school students would receive $7,500, in a private account, and their families could use the money for educational expenses from tuition to tutoring to teaching tools to educational therapies. So if the traditional public school experience just isn’t working for a child, their families would be better able to pay for the educational options that match their needs.

A one-size-fits-all approach to education just doesn’t work for students who are learn on different schedules via different learning styles, and an increasing number of states are coming to realize that. The Goldwater Institute pioneered the nation’s first Education Savings Account program in our home state of Arizona back in 2011, and 10 years later, ESAs continue to expand to more students. Today, nearly 10,000 students across the country are using ESAs.

At In Defense of Liberty, we take a look at how this news out of the Buckeye State is part of a growing trend in favor of educational choice and opportunity—you can check out our post here.



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