Members of the Idaho Senate Education Committee want to see legislation that would require public school districts and charter schools to publish all of their financial transactions on their websites. The plan will now head to the amending order, but there may not be enough time for changes to be approved by the Legislature. At issue is uniform application of the requirements to school districts and charter schools regardless of their size
The requirement would currently only apply to districts or charter schools with more than 300 students. Several senators voiced concern that the program should apply to all school districts and also wondered why the legislation arrived in the Senate so late in the session. “We can’t have transparency from part of the people but not the rest of them,” said Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, who helped move the legislation to the amending order. “I don’t like the fact that we’re arbitrarily drawing the line at 300.”
Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, agreed with Schroeder that a requirement to post material to the Internet should apply to all districts and said the requirement would be harder for smaller districts. “It will take a great deal of effort for some of our smaller schools,” Mortimer said. He said that this year is a bad time for new requirements for districts, given the reduction in state funding. “I don’t think that the time is this year.” Mortimer told IdahoReporter.com after the committee vote that he doesn’t expect the legislation to pass this session, and that he wished the plan had come over to the Senate earlier this session.
The plan’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, said the legislation would have increased transparency of school spending. “We’re taking information that’s already a public record and making it more easily accessible by the public,” Hart said. “In this age that we’re in with easy access to the Internet … we should be providing this kind of information out there to the public.” He also said he added the 300-student limit so that only larger districts that already have websites would be required to post financial documents on the Internet. He said those districts could easily meet the requirement. “The amount of effort that it would take to comply … is very minimal,” he said.
Representatives for schools said it would be difficult for small districts to meet the Internet posting requirements. “We’d probably like a little more time to work with [Hart] and be able to come up with a plan that works,” said Wayne Davis, director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman also testified at the committee meeting. He said that transparency in public schools and other public agencies is being talked about more and more across the country. “Folks want to be assured that the money that they’re already spending is being spent well,” he said.