Goldwater, Parents Score Win In Showdown With School District Over School Book List


The Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network of pro bono attorneys, agreed with a Texas mom that she shouldn’t have to pay $1,300 to see a book list. But that was the bill facing concerned Fort Worth parent Jenny Crossland, who was deciding where to send her daughter for kindergarten.

Crossland floored when she received that shocking bill from her daughter’s prospective school, all because she wanted to see what her child would be reading in class. But due to Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network’s effort, the school district retreated and gave parents the answers they deserve.

It started last May with a simple request from Crossland, who asked for a list of reading materials, the Fort Worth Independent School District told her they would refuse her request unless she paid $1,267.50 in public records fees. Another local mom faced a similar choice when she requested information, too: pay up or go through the lengthy process of appealing to the Texas Attorney General.

Both moms filed public records requests for lists of books that K-12 students are required to read and that teachers can choose from for their classes. It’s simple information—the kind that ought to be shared with parents in a timely manner. But the district told them both it would take a whopping 84.5 hours of labor to pull the lists together. It’s a problem that parents across the country are facing as school after school refuses to be transparent about what is being taught in the classroom. Unfortunately, it can take legal action to get answers.

Last August, the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network filed a complaint with the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office challenging this excessive, illegal fee demand. ‘The Open Records Division then asked the school district for an explanation of the proposed charges. Faced with this request, the district backed down, contacted its vendors, and produced the book lists.

The Goldwater Institute’s Ask Your School Now website gives parents the tools they need to file effective public records requests when the government tries to keep secrets. And the American Freedom Network of pro bono attorneys stands ready to help parents in every state access the information they’re entitled to.

But Goldwater believes parents shouldn’t need to file public records requests and wait months just to find out what’s being taught to their kids in taxpayer-funded schools. That’s why it is promoting its Academic Transparency law in states across the country.

The reform requires public schools to post learning materials online so that parents with questions about their child’s required reading—or any other aspect of their curriculum—can easily access it within seconds.