Attorney General’s Office Starts a Curriculum Database of Its Own
When I started the Show-Me Curricula Project, I had no illusion that schools and districts would happily provide their teaching materials to me for publication. That clarity comes from experience; similar projects I’ve spearheaded for the Show-Me Institute for city checkbooks and local collective bargaining agreements showed that Missouri’s subsidiary governments were consistent . . . ly disinterested in telling the public how they were using the public’s money and authority.
The reason the state bureaucracy resists transparency is simple: the Sunshine Law in Missouri (and elsewhere) is pretty weak, local government officials know it, and many of our state and local officials are reluctant to share information about government operations if they can avoid it. Mandatory document reporting and spending transparency resolve this kind of problem, offering notice to bureaucrats and penalties for noncompliance. I’ve pushed for that reform for a few years now and will continue to do so until it’s passed.
Of course the ideas of “mandatory reporting” and “mandatory transparency” are predicated on active policing of those laws by public officials, like an attorney general or auditor. So I read with great interest an article announcing that the state attorney general’s office had launched a transparency portal of its own showcasing what the office had found in district curricula:
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt subpoenaed seven school districts Wednesday for information on surveys given to students, and also launched a portal which gives the public access to “objectionable teacher trainings and assignments” uncovered through parent submissions and open records requests. . . .
As part of the Students First initiative introduced by Schmitt in March, the attorney general’s office also launched a transparency portal to compile parent’s submissions and open records requests sent to school districts.
The Students First initiative, launched by Schmitt in March, is designed to “increase transparency in Missouri’s schools” and “ensure a quality education for Missouri’s children by uncovering and eliminating curriculum and policies and practices that prioritize politics in the classroom instead of student education and success.”
You can find the attorney general’s transparency portal here.
It has been remarkable to see how resistant many school districts have been to transparency even when the inquiry has come from a state office, but I think that’s emblematic of a state governing culture that holds good governance and transparency in fairly low regard. That the attorney general’s office has had to sue districts to get documents is a testament to the need for transparency in all facets of government, and I’m glad the attorney general and his office have taken steps to increase transparency while a bumbling state legislature struggles to catch up.