Full disclosure is bad news for the public school’s big spenders

It’s that time again when school districts around the state cry poor and go begging to the taxpayers for more money. Well, it’s not quite begging anymore. Nowadays they actually threaten the taxpayers. If they don’t belly up to the bar, the “it’s for the kids” sentiment becomes “do what we want or we’ll punish the kids.”

Years ago, school districts would argue that higher taxes and higher spending would bring about better schools. Today, their only argument is a more honest one: if overburdened taxpayers don’t give them even more money they’ll make the schools worse.

Special programs – art, music, and of course athletic programs – are all on the chopping block if the citizens don’t do what the bureaucrats and school board lemmings tell them to do.

There is never any proof given that more money is required, even though it would be easy enough to provide. In the age of the Internet, a school district need only disclose all the details about revenues and expenditures online.

There is a movement around the country to force government bodies to submit to full disclosure, and some governments – even school districts – have agreed to post their check registers online.

Have these “under-funded” school districts provided evidence of wise spending? Have they posted all the details of all the employee contracts – including those of administrators – on the web? More people are becoming aware of the fact that many school boards prefer to keep some of the perks and some of the details of the benefit packages away from the public eye, since the scale of their generosity with money earmarked for educating kids would rouse ire on the part of the taxpayers.

School boards don’t provide any such details, and they disclose information only as required. In many districts, even the elected school board members have trouble getting school administrations to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests.

“We’re accountable to the public and they have entrusted us with the responsibility” the school board members might say. That’s true but we all know elected officials often make costly mistakes. We need look no further than the “earmarks” in Washington, D.C., and the enormous debt levels accumulating in Springfield.

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (you may have heard of him) and Tom Coburn last year sponsored legislation calling for a new Internet database enabling taxpayers to do their own research on Congressional spending. This bill has received a groundswell of support. The idea is a simple one: “in order to cut wasteful spending, we need average citizens to become more involved in monitoring budgeting decisions.”

Full disclosure and citizen oversight aren’t new concepts. Obviously the public has always been involved in making the decision of whether, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “taxes were deficient or superabundant.”

In 1802, President Jefferson, said that there should be,

“…a simplification of the form of accounts in the treasury department and in the organization of its officers so as to bring everything to a single centre, we might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress and every man of any mind in the union should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.”

It’s quotes like this that help us understand why some school administrators and school board members would prefer that history not be properly taught in the public schools.

The sunlight of full disclosure is coming – with or without the cooperation of the taxeaters (and sometimes thieves) who prefer to keep the public business out of the public eye. When even a liberal Democrat like Sen. Obama can grasp the need, then time is running out on those who profit from keeping taxpayers in the dark.