By Gary Houchens, PhD
The summer of 2021 has seen parents and ordinary citizens suddenly engage their local school boards with a never-before-seen intensity. People who have never been activists are suddenly attending school board meetings, signing petitions, and making their voices heard about critical race theory (CRT) and mask mandates.
The education establishment has responded to concerns about CRT by talking out of both sides of their mouths. First, they claim that CRT isn't really being taught in any Kentucky schools and then react with ferocious opposition to any proposal that limits how CRT concepts can be taught in schools. The National Education Association, the country's largest teacher's union, has even committed itself to defending CRT in schools.
For parent and community activists, the biggest challenge to opposing CRT is the complete lack of transparency about what instructional materials are being used in most schools. Local school leaders can simply shrug off the question by saying, "We don't teach that" and all parents can do is try to piece together examples of CRT-inspired bias in books and lesson materials their kids bring home.
But lawmakers in Wisconsin have a plan for helping parents better understand what is being taught in public schools. The Classroom Transparency Act, crafted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, requires schools to post all lessons and instructional materials on the school website for full public review.
There is no legitimate reason why local school boards should resist this request. Public schools are fully funded by taxpayer dollars and should be completely open about what is being taught in their classrooms and how. Transparency gives parents and the community the opportunity to engage with teachers and principals about curricular decisions and how they are made. In turn, this fosters greater trust, cooperation, and support for local schools.
Of course, Kentucky should also adopt a school choice plan like West Virginia's, which lets education dollars follow students to the school of their family's choice. Otherwise, there is no accountability to go along with the transparency. Parents should have the chance to choose a school based on its curriculum and instructional materials. For far too many Kentucky families, no such option is available to them.
Let's make Kentucky schools transparent and accountable.
Dr. Houchens is a policy advisor for Commonwealth Educational Opportunities. He is a professor of education administration at Western Kentucky University.