Hijacked then gutted and neutered. That’s the only way to describe what happened when the Senate Education Committee amended Senator Ted Harvey’s bill on school district financial transparency.
Senator Bob Bacon introduced an amendment that establishes a “voluntary pilot program” for transparency. It passed and is now on its way to the full floor of the Senate. Senator Harvey asked to open up the bill for additional testimony since it had been altered dramatically. Bacon, chair of the committee, said no. Senator Harvey also tried to kill his own bill. Harvey did say he would bring the bill back next year.
Bacon, a former educator, used words like “cruel” and “fear” to describe how school districts may respond to financial transparency. Fear is only present when there is something to hide.
Bacon also stated that he is concerned that school districts may not have the personnel to implement transparency online in a searchable format. If that’s the case, then perhaps the school districts can ask one of their students because I promise you, students know how. It does make me wonder who should be doing the teaching.
A moment of humor came when Senator Kopp responded to Bacon by asking, “are these school districts using a pencil and paper?” When the committee laughed, Kopp said he was serious. He wanted to know if the school disticts to which Bacon referred were computer literate.
Senator Bacon showed a great deal of concern toward school districts and their burdens but absolutely no concern for taxpayers or the 18 plus people who testified yesterday in support of transparency.
Today, anti-transparency forces (Senators Hudak, Bacon and Heath) prevailed but as Senator Chris Romer said, “this is a trend that won’t stop.” Then he said to Senator Harvey, eventually “you will win.”
He is right. They aren’t going to stop this train. Yesterday’s testimony proved that taxpayers want to know how their money is spent.
In the meantime, taxpayers are at the mercy of school districts that may or may not want to share how they are spending taxpayers’ dollars.
One bright spot: Despite voting for the amendment, it appears that Senators Groff and Romer won’t just tow the teachers’ union line.
Transparency supporters do not despair. We may have lost this battle but as Senator Romer pointed we will win the war.
Remember: No taxation without information!