As thousands of American classrooms quietly plunge their students into critical race theory and teachings that the United States is inherently racist, and other controversial political doctrines, parents are scrambling for answers about what exactly is creeping into their kids’ curriculum. 

Some states have begun to tackle the issue, with a handful even moving to ban such content outright from K-12 classrooms.

But the truth is, even bans don’t address the root problem. If the goal of our schools is to give children a great education that prepares them for the real world – and it should be – then there must be a more proactive plan for ensuring that politics doesn’t seep into our classrooms in the first place, for ensuing that schools’ activism never supersedes their academic rigor.


First, parents must be empowered to hold schools accountable – and in the short term, that requires challenging those schools that are preventing parents from knowing what their kids are being taught. Think about that: Parents have to fight to learn what schools are teaching their own children in schools that they pay for with their tax dollars.

Nicole Solas is one of those parents: When Nicole was enrolling her daughter in kindergarten earlier this year, she asked her South Kingstown, Rhode Island, school district for information about the materials her daughter would encounter in school.


The school instructed her to instead request the information via a formal public records process, but after Nicole submitted these requests, she was told that responses would cost thousands of dollars. She was even threatened by the district with a potential lawsuit because it claimed she submitted too many requests. 

Despite several months of going back and forth with the district, to date, Nicole still has only been given nonresponsive, incomplete answers or out-of-date curriculum materials. 

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Nicole’s story is far too common, as reports of school districts stonewalling information requests or demanding thousands of dollars to turn over curriculum records are well-documented. No parent should seek this basic information only to be met with legal and financial obstacles thrown into their path by district administrators. 

To defend Nicole’s right to access these materials, the Goldwater Institute, where we work, has gotten involved to provide her the legal support necessary to navigate this process and ensure the district honors her right – and every parent’s right – to public information about what their children are learning.

But it shouldn’t take a lawyer or a load of money to know what’s going to be taught to your kids in their public school. And one smart policy has the power to ensure that that doesn’t happen in the future.

A new Academic Transparency initiative for states and school districts would render this process obsolete and instead give parents the ability to see what is actually being used in their kids’ classrooms without a drawn out and costly legal battle. 

Parents need a more proactive approach if we are to truly stem the tide of politics in the classroom going forward.

Under the policy, schools would proactively post on a publicly accessible portion of their website a simple list of the actual materials used for student instruction in the most recent school year – whether they be textbooks, essays like those from the politically charged 1619 Project, or online news articles – in a format as simple an inexpensive as a Google Doc. 

This wouldn’t require reinventing the wheel: For the many teachers who already submit lesson plans or keep track of their materials to reuse them the following year, they already have such a list on hand.

Such a law would create a sea change in K-12 education. Prospective parents like Nicole could immediately review the type of content awaiting their child before they’re forced to make any enrollment decision. 

And school districts that insist on pushing politically charged content would in turn find themselves under a meaningful spotlight for the first time – and they would be forced to reckon with the financial pressure that would come from alienating potential enrollees and the funding those students would otherwise bring with them.

Multiple states have now introduced or advanced this academic transparency legislation, with more poised to come on board this year and next. And while numerous others have recently passed restrictions on teaching critical race theory in particular, left-wing organizations have already begun rebranding much of their material in ways that will evade even many of the strictest new laws. 

Regardless of one’s views on these content bans, therefore, parents need a more proactive approach if we are to truly stem the tide of politics in the classroom going forward.


Thanks to the bravery of parents like Nicole Solas and growing support for academic transparency, parents may soon have an unprecedented and unfiltered look inside our schools – and that’s fantastic news for anyone who cares about the state of K-12 education in America.

Equipping parents with knowledge is the best way to free classrooms from politically extreme content and keep schools accountable for what they teach. Indeed, parents like Nicole – and perhaps more significantly, her daughter – deserve that.


Jon Riches is the director of national litigation at the Goldwater Institute.