Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Student Press Law Center Doing Some GREAT Sunshine Week Work...

If you haven't seen it, Sunshine Week is kickin' it this week...

Requesting financial records from a public school district can cause some staff to raise their eyebrows. But obtaining the records is often quite simple, and the information could make an informative high school newspaper story.

The Student Press Law Center called 15 public school districts across America asking for the superintendent's expense reimbursements for the 2006-07 school year. Our test was not designed to be scientific, but we chose school districts located in different areas, to see if there were noticeable differences. The population of these communities ranged from 14,000 to 1.5 million.

We sent formal request letters to all districts except Sioux Falls School District, in South Dakota, which faxed us the information immediately after our phone call.

The records we received by the time this article was printed showed that the size of the school district did not always correlate with their superintendent's reimbursements. Phoenix, with a population of 1.5 million, spent about $3,800 reimbursing its superintendent, while East Baton Rouge Parish School System, with a community population of about 429,000, spent more than $11,000. Sioux Falls spent the least amount at about $300. Laguna Beach spent the most, at $18,500, but $18,000 was for relocation expenses for a new superintendent. Overall, districts spent the most on travel reimbursements, meals and conferences.

Most district representatives, while acting respectful, acted as though this information had never been requested before. The most common questions asked were "What are you using this for?" and "Are you looking for anything in particular?" The answer we gave when asked why we needed the records was "We are doing some research at the office." We wanted to avoid being too specific because all we really wanted to know is if districts would comply.

More here.

See the whole test here.

No comments: