CFSD Secret Textbook Process – In Violation of State Transparency Laws
School districts across Arizona are violating state transparency laws. If you’re in Arizona, chances are that your district is too! Just last month, Arizona Attorney General (AG) Kris Mayes sanctioned Scottsdale Unified School District for holding closed meetings on topics relating to textbook adoption, development of the district’s strategic plan, and other misuses of secret sub-committees (read more here).
Violations relating to textbook selection are perhaps the clearest and most common violation state-wide. Title 15 sections 721 (grades K-8) and 722 (grades 9-12) says all governing boards shall: “require that all meetings of committees authorized for the purposes of textbook review and selection be open to the public as prescribed in title 38, chapter 3, article 3.1.” The AG found SUSD in violation for the very same thing districts are doing right now across our state.
A few months earlier, the AG also found Liberty Elementary School District out of compliance with title 38, Arizona’s Open Meeting Law (OML) statutes. They were required to post the letter from the AG on their website (read more here).
While Scottsdale and Liberty have been showing some signs of improving, other districts like Prescott (read more here) and Catalina Foothills appear to be getting worse. If school boards like Catalina Foothills continue to approve of controversial instructional materials, they should at least comply with state laws that require the process be open to the public so parents can see how these materials are being selected. If the process is right, they should have no reason to hide it. Continuing in secret just creates more suspicion and breeds distrust.
At the last governing board meeting on January 9th, Superintendent Dr. Mary Kamerzell was asked about these open meeting laws for textbook committees. In her response, Dr. Kamerzell recognized transparency laws for textbook committees but falsely claimed the law doesn’t apply to K-8 and denied CFSD has such committees. When she described the textbook committees as consisting of district staff, the Board seemed to miss the contradiction (she just denied they exist). Instead, they immediately and unanimously voted to approve all 557 new textbooks recommended by the Social Studies textbook review committee. This 6-minute video captures how it unfolded.
In the very same vote, the CFSD board also unanimously approved the removal of 126 instructional materials. This removal included three elementary school instructional materials with titles containing Martin Luther King, Jr. Of the 557 new resources they added, not one elementary title contained his name. Of all times to make this move, the Board chose to do it on the same week as the Martin Luther King holiday. MLK wasn’t the only one banned that week. Titles for Christopher Columbus were also stripped from the list without any replacement titles.
In Arizona, the duty and authority of textbook selection belongs solely to school governing boards. If they want to create the appearance of secretly purging district curriculum of influential historical world figures, that’s their right to do so. If they really believe this is the best thing for our schools and our communities, they should do it openly and legally. Yet, they refuse to do so.
Would you please help us support school board candidates who are willing to return CFSD to the kind of open transparency the law requires and our community deserves? Stay tuned for information coming soon on the kind of candidates who are committed to this goal.