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Governor is wrong — schools should be more transparent

Gov. Tom Wolf was wrong to veto a bill requiring school districts to post information about textbooks and course material online.

Efforts to inform parents and taxpayers about the required reading in Pennsylvania’s schools are not, as Wolf said in an article in Thursday’s Williamsport Sun-Gazette, “a thinly veiled attempt to restrict truthful instruction and censor content reflecting various cultures, identities and experiences.”

It is, of course, possible — perhaps even likely — that some residents of some school districts will use the proposed measure of accountability to lobby or pressure school boards to block certain books.

That is their right.

While we suspect in the vast majority of instances where this may happen, we will disagree with such parents and we will encourage educators and other parents to make the strong, necessary case to continue including the books or reading material in question, we must acknowledge several truths.

First, transparency in what public schools teach is not synonymous with surrendering any lesson or any book. They are two distinctly different debates.

Second, resistance to transparency will not inoculate any school district from pressure to change the curriculum or remove certain books. If anything, it provides credence to the idea that the curriculum or required reading is being hidden because its inclusion can’t be readily defended.

As we editorialized in early October when this bill was passed by the state House’s education committee, we hoped the proposal “would help dispel fears and rumors about what our local school districts’ curricula include. We are confident that greater transparency would equip community members to contribute in school board meetings in a more constructive way.”

Which brings us to a third truth: In a system where education is publicly funded, parents and taxpayers have a right to debate the merits of the curriculum and what books are part of that curriculum and school districts have an obligation to be open with what that curriculum entails.

Even if it means some parents will argue for changes with which educators, the editors of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette or Gov. Tom Wolf disagree.

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