Complete Information for the Community
Checklist of Public Information
Government school districts are public bodies whose inner workings
should be visible to all residents, taxpayers and education consumers.
Two powerful tools are available for residents who want to learn about
their school districts, namely, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and
the Open Meetings Act.
The Illinois Loop believes that this is only a start.
To be truly operating in full candor, a school district should not be waiting
for citizen petitions. The following important information should be available up-front, on the
district's website as well as readily available for public inspection on-site:
Board Policies: The collected "board policies"
of the school district, including administrative procedures, should be readily available
in print and online. In some states this is required by state law.
(About 40 Illinois districts have their Board Policies available
Detailed curriculum standards.
Syllabus for each course
Identification of specific textbooks and other major curriculum
and instructional materials, by grade and subject
A list of textbooks and instructional materials used in the district, revised annually by administrators
under the Superintendent's direction.
Anyone may inspect any textbook or instructional material in person, with reasonable rules established
for dates and times of access.
Statement of commitment to intellectual diversity in hiring
Statement of commitment to balance in treatment of controversial issues
Results on state tests
All group and summary tabulations of any standardized tests taken
that go beyond the required state tests (e.g., Iowa Test of Basic Skills)
Percent distribution of teacher-assigned letter grades
Statement on prohibition on district business with contributors to election or referendum campaigns (pay-for-play).
- Budget and Spending
Detailed budget (not merely the very brief outline that is required by the state)
The district check register, showing all payments
Complete CV for key administrators, including
the superintendent and assistant superintendents, curriculum directors,
and school principals.
These are the people who run your children's school.
You should be able to read information on who they are.
Contracts with key administrators
Salaries and bonuses of key administrators
Negotiated union contracts
Teacher salary schedule
District's Master Schedule
Breakout of degrees earned by teachers, categorized by
degree subject and awarding departments.
Degrees awarded by ed schools
should be reported separately
from degrees awarded by other college departments.
Ed school Ed.D. degrees should be reported
separately from Ph.D.'s.
Identification of hired or retained educational consultants, facilitators, workshop presenters
and contractors, including names and web site addresses.
School Board meetings
Notice and agenda of upcoming board meetings
Complete copies of "board packets" (documents provided
to board members at each meeting)
Minutes, taken in sufficient detail to understand each issue in question,
the nature of various stated positions, and resolution
Minutes should be taken by someone other than
a school administrator or other board employee
If a committee or task force was created by
and is responsible to a primarily public body (e.g., a school district), then it
itself is also considered a public body and is thus subject to the
Open Meetings Act.
Notice and agenda of upcoming committee meetings
Names and email addresses of participants, including
board members, district employees, and local citizens
Identification of leader or facilitator(s)
Detailed minutes of meetings
All documents distributed at meetings
Teacher workshops and in-service programs
Full descriptions of content, facilitators, speakers
Dates and time alloted
All materials distributed
Budget information on related expenditures, outside speakers and suppliers
Video or audio tape should be available for viewing by board members (at least!)
as well as by parents and citizens
E-mail addresses for all board members.
This may be an address for each member individually, or a "group address" such that a single mailing
goes to all board members. Unfortunately, some districts have been known to go to great
lengths to shelter their board members from hearing public comments!
Public surveys: If any public surveys are conducted or commissioned by the
district, the complete results, rather than carefully excerpted tidbits, should be available
in print and online.
- Student-Specific Information for Parents (password protected)
A general description of what is happening in each class: current unit or topic
Current long-term assignments, plus goal and description of any major project
Student status: grades, homework completion
Movement To Open Disclosure
Not a PR pro? How To Successfully Talk To Your Local District About Putting Its Checks Online
by Peyton Wolcott.
"Generally we start out assuming our dealings with our school
districts will be a rational exercise. Most of us are volunteers and
in addition to our taxes give generously to our children's schools.
Then when we spend a lot of time there, we notice things. Years ago I
myself felt sure that if I showed my local supe and board where money
was being wasted in some areas and not adequately safeguarded in
others that they would welcome this information with open arms and
changes would be made on the spot. Hah! Imagine my surprise when
they reacted as though to a personal attack when I was just trying to
This is why I have come to the conclusion after years in the
grassroot trenches that the best and most effective single step we
can take to help our districts reign in costs and improve our
vendor-driven curriculums in order to better educate our kids is to
persuade our schools to post their check registers online."
Creating Smart Education in Illinois? A First Step ... Post the Check Registers
by Adam Andrzejewski, Executive Director, For The Good Of Illinois, February 6, 2008.
The Illinois State Board of Education and the 924 school districts in
Illinois need to take simple, yet direct action to preserve the
public trust: Post the check registers on the Internet. Let the
people see where the $20 billion is being spent. ... Under current
Illinois law, all information is currently available to the public
by way of the Freedom of Information Act. The Internet just provides
ready and ease of access. There is minimal cost or expense for
posting the check registers. Check registers are electronic
documents and only have to be converted into a PDF document. Posting
time to the Internet is minimal: creating the PDF and posting can be
accomplished in less than five minutes. Post the check registers."
"Post the check registers on the Internet. Let the
people see where the $20 billion is being spent."
National School District Honor Roll
by Peyton Wolcott.
"Alarmed at declining standards and fueled by rumors of
corruption, parents and citizens have begun filing public
records requests to view [school district] checks and receipts and have been generally
rebuffed in this undertaking by administrators ...
The quickest and fastest way to slice through this Gordion knot
is for public school districts to start posting their check
registers online. To encourage this, I have instituted the National School
District Honor Roll ... Any district
that will undertake to do this gets their name on the roll on my website.
It's hard to imagine any superintendent in our great republic being able to come
up with a decent reason for not wanting their district's financial operations to be
perceived by their parents and taxpayers as being completely clean and
transparent, sooner rather than later."
Full Disclosure Is Bad News For The Public School's Big Spenders,
Family Taxpayer Network, January 24, 2007.
It's that time again when school districts around the state cry poor
and go begging to the taxpayers for more money. Well, it's not quite
begging anymore. Nowadays they actually threaten the taxpayers. If
they don't belly up to the bar, the 'it's for the kids' sentiment
becomes 'do what we want or we'll punish the kids.'
Years ago, school districts would argue that higher taxes and higher
spending would bring about better schools. Today, their only argument
is a more honest one: if overburdened taxpayers don't give them even
more money they'll make the schools worse.
Special programs -- art, music, and of course athletic programs -- are
all on the chopping block if the citizens don't do what the
bureaucrats and school board lemmings tell them to do. ...
"There is a movement around the country to force government bodies to
submit to full disclosure, and some governments -- even school
districts -- have agreed to post their check registers online.
Have these 'under-funded' school districts provided evidence of wise
spending? Have they posted all the details of all the employee
contracts -- including those of administrators -- on the web? More
people are becoming aware of the fact that many school boards prefer
to keep some of the perks and some of the details of the benefit
packages away from the public eye, since the scale of their
generosity with money earmarked for educating kids would rouse ire on
the part of the taxpayers."
- District 15 Opens Its Books: Board Agrees to Put District Documents Online and in Libraries
by Nadia Malik, Daily Herald, November 10, 2005.
In an effort to increase its transparency, the Palatine Township
Elementary District 15 board agreed Wednesday to place several
documents on its Web site.
Teacher salary schedules, the packets the board receives before
meetings and a full budget will all be available to the public
without having to file a request through the Freedom of Information
The documents will also be available at the Rolling Meadows, Palatine
and Barrington public libraries, which all sit in the district's
jurisdiction. ... The board also recently decided to start taping its meetings, which
have been playing on public access television in Hoffman Estates,
Palatine and Rolling Meadows. ... These same tapes will also be placed in all three libraries."