This is a public service announcement
Know your rights
all three of them
While this issue has been highlighted by the debate over roll call voting, recent findings by the folks at the S.C. Policy Council in their efforts to study spending by local school districts ran into a tougher stonewall than Union troops at Bull Run. It was similar experience to what was encountered by the folks at Voice for School Choice.
The friendly folks over at the Palmetto Scoop smell a rat, and we agree with them:
The state Freedom of Information Act allows districts to collect fees “not to exceed the actual cost of searching for and making copies of records,” and the act states “records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost to the person requesting the records.”
But it has become standard operating procedure in South Carolina for public entities to exploit that section to keep a would-be requester from gaining access to the information. Public school districts seem to be particularly fond of this tactic.
We would like to recognize the honest guys who spoiled the party for the other school districts by offering to share the records for little or no cost:
* Sumter District 1 (9,007 students) - Free
* Aiken School District (25,068 students) - Free
* Richland District 1 (24,663 students) - $337.80
* Florence District 5 (1,583 students) - $464.80
* Cherokee School District (9,286 students) - $525.00
This is contrasted with the worst of the stonewallers:
* Lexington District 1 (20,161 students) - $24,000
* McCormick School District (924 students) - $26,405
* Greenville School District (67,928 students) - $35,045
* Beaufort School District (19,276 students) - $55,388
* Greenwood District 52 (1,597 students) - $217,192
Our hats are off to those who did the grunt work as FOIA requests are seldom easy. In this case, the stonewalling may end up being a bigger story than the actual expenses.
As we push for greater transparency in government in South Carolina, it's important to make sure local government, including school districts, are included. According to the folks at the Policy Council, a budget proviso requiring the posting of spending records was stripped out during budget dicussions last spring. Making sure this proviso doesn't get buried should be a priority for legislators in the next budget.
As with roll call voting at the State House - knowing what's going on is one of our rights.