Islip Bulletin Editorial 3-27-2008
Transparent means transparent
Out from under another scandal, school districts need—really need— to be open and transparent so
their constituencies (hard working taxpayers that cannot raise capital by raising someone else’s taxes) can know where
the money is going.
Toward this goal, SchoolWatch, a growing nationwide grassroots organization that has trained its eyes on school
districts, is calling for New York State school districts to do what 163 districts in 14 states have already done: Putting
district documents online for the whole world to see.
Yes, a novel idea. Open up the ivory tower and create a looking glass kind of feel, where what the school districts
are doing with taxpayer money is open for complete inspection.
Faxes and e-mails have begun to be delivered to local districts and elected representatives letting them know
that the ball is now in their court, but the public needs to know.
Some may say this could be a legal disaster waiting to happen, but the fourth largest school district in the
nation—Miami-Dade—did it in February and placed its check register online; more than 6,500 pages of payments in
alphabetical order by vendor for all the world to see.
This is what transparency is. Not that one day a district allows people to see a crack in the keyhole. But the
entire inventory laid bare for taxpayers to review and question.
Too many questions. But think about it. If the system is open then the questions should be easy to answer and
explain. It is all there in black and white and binary numbers.
Doing this would be an easy stroke toward transparency as it permits school districts the luxury of accountability
if all their “t”s are crossed and “i”s dotted. If the punctuation is improper, then finding the rotten
apple should not be that difficult either.
SchoolWatch is calling for a legislative mandate from the New York State Legislature for all public school transactions
to put online. Why should the districts wait for that?
School districts should be smart and get ahead of the curve and show their constituencies that they know the
meaning of transparency: clearness, lucidity, simplicity and intelligibility