Debunking the Myths Surrounding Fiscal Transparency for School Districts
In recent days, there has been much misinformation put out about the school district transparency bill by Representative Rick Edmonds. Although groups have been spreading misinformation, it doesn’t change the fact that transparency of taxpayer dollars is a necessary function of any good government. We have chosen two prominent myths to address in this article.
For context, schools across the state are receiving $3.9 billion in state dollars this fiscal year and $4 billion in federal money is also headed their way. Schools across Louisiana are receiving more money this year and next than ever before… by a large margin.
Louisiana spends over $13,000 per student annually, more than most of our neighboring states. In return, we continually rank near the bottom of the list in student outcomes.
While fiscal transparency won’t fix these problems, it will allow parents and taxpayers to begin seeing how their tax dollars are being spent. The first step towards fixing our education system isn’t throwing more money at the problem, it is understanding exactly how the existing funds are being spent.
Support for this concept was overwhelming, with supermajorities of both chambers of the legislature supporting the concept at different points of the process. It is also a VERY popular idea among the grassroots across the state. When asked whether school boards should make their finances public, a whopping 95% of Louisianans agree. A supermajority of 67% of citizens believe that we should implement the transparency on a local level even after learning that there could be a small cost to taxpayers.
So now, the myths.
Myth #1 – The bill exempts all but one charter school.
That is a patently false statement. Under HB 38, fiscal transparency is enhanced for every public school in the state of Louisiana, that includes charter schools. Furthermore HB 38 would require 46 charter schools to fully implement increased fiscal transparency through the Louisiana Checkbook website. The remaining 99 smaller charter schools with enrollments of less than 2,500, just like the 92 traditional public schools located in small rural traditional school districts that are excluded from the Louisiana Checkbook participation requirement, will be required to post additional fiscal reports to their own website.
Myth #2 – The bill is “unaffordable” and “unnecessary”.
Anyone who makes this claim is primarily looking out for government, not taxpayers or the children. Schools are receiving more dollars this year and next than ever before. Not to mention, the dollars to implement the program were appropriated in HB 1. Compliance with the program would cost districts a few thousand dollars, if anything, representing less than one quarter of one percent of the annual taxpayer money they receive at the very high end.
Extra money aside, it is insulting to taxpayers to tell them that you’re not willing to show your work. We spend more than our neighbors while receiving worse outcomes, the very least that government can do is open their books.
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