checkbook online

At the District 299 blog, Alexander Russo writes about the idea of putting checkbook registers online, with some topical updates and a question for Chicago Public Schools…a similar question  to one I asked of District 211 awhile back:

Why not post the District 211 checkbook online?


Allison Smith, the communications director for District 300 has suggested that her school district automatically post much more information on the district website.

Specifically, she has suggested to their school board that all FOIA requests that the district receives be posted on the district’s website, along with the responses.

A national pro-open records blog is enthusiastic about the idea.

I’ve had trouble getting the most basic information from District 211, such as copies of electric bills and simple invoices. Once I did get the information I sought, I posted it here. How much better it would be if District 211 would fulfill its commitment to enhancing communication by posting both the FOIA requests it gets, and the information it provides in response to them, right on the District website. More people would then get the information they seek, and the District wouldn’t look like it is trying to keep certain information a secret.

Peyton Wolcott from Texas was honored with a terrific article in the Austin American-Statesman on Friday:

Horseshoe Bay woman’s crusade for openness gets help from lawmaker: Bill calls for school districts to post spending online.

Peyton Wolcott, a veteran agitator who encourages school districts to be open and honest with parents and taxpayers, features something on her watchdog Web site she calls the National School District Honor Roll.

With the help of State Rep. Bill Zedler, Wolcott’s honor roll could swell with the names of more than 1,000 Texas school districts that would be required by law to post on the Internet every check they cut.

There is nothing to stop school districts across the country from voluntarily doing so, of course.

I urge District 211 to initiate this practice.

Right now, D211 communications administrator Tom Petersen won’t even tell me how much D211 spends every year to belong to the shadowy lobbying firm Ed-Red.

“Go ahead and file a FOIA” is in essence how Mr. Petersen ungraciously responded to my inquiry last week.

I’ve also emailed Ed-Red itself — three times — and they’re not saying, either.

If the D211 checkbook register was online, we, the taxpayers and parents, could find out without having to go through the cumbersome and expensive FOIA process. We’d also save some employee at D211 from having to dig up that information when we do send in a FOIA.

It would also promote a sense of greater transparency and show a willingness to be open and communicative with D211 parents.

Almost all of the school board candidates have pledged their devotion to better communication.

Posting the checkbook register online would be a great place to start.

According to the Wednesday edition of the Dallas Morning News, large public school districts in Texas are starting to post their checkbook registers online.

Apparently, in Texas, their governor has signed an Executive Order that all public schools must devote 65% of their total budget to instruction. If that order had been in effect here in 2005, the five District 211 high schools would have put much more money into the classroom instead of into the administrative offices, because in 2005, District 211 only put 57.8% of its budget into the classroom.

Peyton Wolcott is quoted in the article and seems to be the person doing the most to push the idea of financial transparency through asking school districts to place their checkbook registers online.

Putting the District 211 checkbook register online would promote greater transparency and trust. I’d like to see the school board candidates get behind this idea.