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Transparency in public education – a parental right – a state obligation

From Charlie Copeland, Director Center for Analysis of Delaware’s Economy & Government Spending, Caeser Rodney Institute

Parents have the right to decide the content and quality of their child’s education, full stop. The political elite (like the Bidens, Carpers, Carneys, Coons, and Markells) have exercised this right for years by sending their children to private schools and/or elite Charter schools.

Regular Delawareans have not been so privileged. A simple addition to Delaware law can help fix this.

It is reported that Delaware State Representative Charles S. Postles, Jr. (R-Milford North) will be introducing education transparency legislation. While the Caesar Rodney Institute has not seen this legislation nor been involved in it, we look forward to its introduction, assuming it promotes content transparency in the manner detailed below.

Transparency needs

Since the start of “remote learning” in our public schools, many regular Delaware parents have discovered that school curricula were not what they expected or remembered. This situation has upset many in Delaware and across the country. Parents should not be surprised by the content taught to their children, nor should they be forced to try to infiltrate the education bureaucracy to get answers to content questions. It is a matter of equity for all Delaware public school parents and taxpayers to have access to the following information at a minimum:

(1) All instructional or training materials, or activities, used for staff and faculty training.

(2) All learning or curricular materials, or activities, used for student instruction; and

(3) Any procedures for the documentation, review, or approval of the training, learning, or curricular materials used for staff and faculty training or student instruction at the school, including by the principal, curriculum administrators, or other teachers.

Today, to access this information, Delawareans must file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with their school, their district, or the Delaware Department of Education. The FOIA law was established back in 1977 – pre-internet – stating that “it is vital that citizens have easy access to public records” to support a free and democratic society.

Delaware is post-internet, and access to public records is NOT “easy.”

Fortunately, every school or district now has its own website, and the state has spent (and is spending) millions to ensure broadband access for all Delawareans. As a result of this technology, forcing hardworking parents to follow a 40 plus-year-old antiquated process is wrong and fixable. Schools can simply post the information online with exceptions for copyrighted material.

Bipartisan Support

A solution like that mentioned above is supported by both progressive and conservative parents across the country. Last October, the Democrat polling firm, ALG Research, joined with the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, to poll 2,500 Americans on public education issues. Two key findings of the poll were:

Americans – and Democrats – are unhappy with the direction of their schools. Pluralities of Democrats (33%) and voters overall (44%) think the quality of their state’s public schools has gotten worse. A majority of voters (54%) and public-school parents (55%) are frustrated with how their child’s school handled the pandemic.

Voters want to see changes to get students back on track. More than two-thirds (68%) of parents across the country believe their children began the year behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fully 71% of voters-including 85% of Democrats-want to see changes and adopt new ways of doing things to get students back on track. Across the aisle, fully 57% of GOP voters believe schools should make “bold” or “some changes” and adopt new ways of doing things.

In short, Democrat and Republican voters agree that our public schools have dropped the ball during the Pandemic. “The bars are open, but the schools are closed” has become a popular meme on social media. The legislative ideas recommended above would help bring back sorely needed trust in public education – in a bi-partisan manner to boot.