For government, transparency is an effective path to efficiency – especially when said transparency involves detailing how government is spending your money. That’s why State Rep Bill Zedler has filed legislation this special session to compel Texas school districts to post key financial information online.
While many school districts have embraced the practice of making their budgets, financial reports, and check registers available online, others have not. Dismissing this requirement as an “un-funded mandate” (despite encouragement and support from the comptroller’s office), some ISDs continue to withhold important financial data from the taxpayers. In fact there is no real cost and it is an important taxpayer protection.
In this age of easily accessible electronic data and especially in a state where the legislature spends close to 60% of our general revenue budget on public education, there is little to no excuse for government – local or otherwise – to shun opening their books to those paying the bills.
Over the past decade,Texas has increased total spending for public education at nearly five times the rate of enrollment growth and blown far past the rate of inflation, all while seeing limited educational improvement.
This unacceptable and unsustainable rate of spending is yielding less than acceptable outcomes in the classroom – and taxpayers have a right to know why.
(Hint: perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a great deal of school districts only spend about half of every $1 in the classroom.)
In requiring school districts to comply with financial transparency measures, Rep. Zedler’s special session HB66 also has ISDs submit a letter to the Texas Education Agency detailing how compliance was met as well as how costly the improvements were. If an ISD is unable to comply, they are required to explain why.
In a special session of the Texas legislature focused on (among other things) “measures that will allow school districts to operate more efficiently,” Mr. Zedler’s call for increased transparency should be quickly echoed as an opportunity to accomplish commonsense reforms not addressed during the regular session.
Since liberals forced a special session, conservatives might as well make it worthwhile.
Andrew Kerr is the Executive Director of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility
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