Grading Public School Transparency: Does Rockwood Deserve An A+?
Last Tuesday, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Rockwood School District (of which I am a graduate) received an A+ rating for “transparency” among the 10 largest school districts in Missouri. According to the Sunshine Review, a non-profit group that concentrates on state and local government accountability, Rockwood’s website met all of their criteria and provides information regarding taxes, budgets, meetings, elected officials, administrative officials, contracts, audits, public records, academics, and background checks.
Some may see Rockwood’s website as a model for school districts to follow, but taking a closer look at the site, it is not perfect. For example, if you want to review the superintendent’s or other personnel contracts, benefits, pensions, or records of communication (like e-mails between the superintendent, the president of the teachers’ union, school board members, and the board secretary), you will not find it on Rockwood’s website. Instead, you have to make a specific request for public records, and depending on the information, it could cost you more than $18,005.
Is this worthy of an A+?
No, and taxpayers deserve more. Former Show-Me Institute Policy Analyst Audrey Spalding is exactly right, “It Is Time To Increase Public School Transparency.” We have the technology to share information online. Now it is time for school districts to step up and provide us with detailed information on how they spend our money.