There is no good reason USD 231 does not put expense reports, agendas and directors’ reports online for interested patrons to view.
This is especially true at a time when the district’s bond rating was recently lowered by Standard and Poore from AA- to A plus; experienced teachers are being offered early retirement; and many employees are going without raises.
Although some patrons are calling for an outside audit, the best audit is public scrutiny. Gardner city has made some good, and relatively inexpensive, steps towards transparency by making most reports available online, as well as videotaping meetings.
USD 231 should follow suit.
Expense and time involved putting the information online should be minimal, and it would minimize what officials consider “burdensome” individual patron requests for information. School district officials currently require patrons to file an open records request and pay for time and copies. Government entities are stewards of public documents, not owners, and Kansas law requires all records be open, with some specific exemptions, such as confidential student or employee information.
The district’s current policy is a barrier to transparency.
Under the Kansas Open Records Act, The Gardner News obtained copies of the district’s monthly expenses, excluding debt and payroll, for the first quarter. Expenses in January were about $740,000, February $1.1 million and March, $1.3 million. The complete reports are available online at www.gardnernews.com.
Although we’re sure the itemized expenses are legitimate and documented, we wonder at the need for so many trips to Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot or Costco and numerous lunches (including a $314 meal at Zio’s) especially when parents are being nickled and dimed to death through increased student fees and lunches.
Rather than cutting back on experienced teachers by offering early retirement, it seems the first place to reduce expenses might be tightening the belt on incidentals. There’s a difference in wants and needs.
We need good experienced teachers and student supplies. District staff wants to eat at Johnny’s, Houlihans and Zio’s, to name a few. Consolidating purchases might also result in savings.
The first step toward getting out of debt is to acknowledge it.
There is no good reason USD 231 administration and school board are not more forthcoming with public documents.
Except they don’t want to be.