The USD 231 district administration has spent untold thousands of dollars – and many hours – writing, reviewing and rewriting its public records policy, racking up attorney bills and making presentations to the board regarding fees and public record access.
Yet, these proposed changes – like the ones hurriedly passed by the board last year – have not been vetted to the public either through committee or in any other form inviting patron comments or concerns.
We’ve never seen an administration devote so much time – and resources – to debating the Kansas Open Records Act. Most taxing entities respond to the public’s request for records in a fairly routine and equitable manner.
Recent debate surrounded whether good faith estimates should be given prior to supplying taxpayer-owned records, whether the district superintendent should have the discretion to determine who is charged, and whether prepayment should be required..
With all the hoopla regarding estimates and prepayment, an observer would think there must be thousands in unpaid KORA requests laying in district files. However, that’s not the case.
In fact, according to the administrative office staff, there has been only one unpaid $122 request – and the patron disputed that charge, saying – and showing emails to substantiate the claim – it was not what had been requested.
After much discussion last week, the policy was again sent back to the attorney for another rewrite. The attorney bills at $200-plus per hour, add that to administrative and support staff time, and we have to wonder at the district’s priorities.
Doesn’t the district administration have bigger fish to fry? Don’t they have students to educate? Curriculum to determine? Budgets to balance?
KORA is governed by state statute and many professional agencies routinely provide educational seminars at no charge. Rather than trying to micromanage, the superintendent should be directed to contact the Kansas Association of School Boards, attorney general’s office or Sunshine Coalition to discuss public records and meetings. The public could be invited.
At a time when administration is saying they need more money for the students, and parents are complaining of increasing fees, the time and money spent debating this issue is a misappropriation of resources.
One hour of attorney time is about twice what the “unpaid” charge was.
Talk about making an issue out of a non-issue.