Should school boards be transparent and accountable to the people? Not according to Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.
The Louisiana legislature enough members willing to come back for a veto session in order to try and overturn some of the vetoes that Governor John Bel Edwards issued two weeks ago. Two of the big ones were of a transgender athlete bill and a Constitutional carry bill. I suspect that the Republicans have enough votes from Democrats for a veto override of the transgender bill, but the gun bill I think is truly dead.
But those are just two of the 28 bills Edwards vetoed. One of the most underreported bills he decided not to sign was H.B. 38, which would have made school boards be more transparent in how they spend taxpayer money.
The bill would have required something like the Louisiana Checkbook, a site launched three years ago that shows every dollar spent by the state government, but for local school districts. One district, Lafayette Parish launched their own a few months after the state’s launch, but this bill would have required every district (save those with a very, very low student count) set one up.
Edwards cited a lack of technology and resources among districts to bring the systems online as a reason to veto to bill. The Louisiana Checkbook, he says, took years to set up and millions of dollars to implement.
The problem is that just doesn’t make sense. The Lafayette Parish system in its three years online has only cost them about $100,000 dollars to set up and maintain for these three years. After a pricier set-up cost, school districts that take in millions a year in revenue would just be allocating the $25,000 or so per year needed to maintain the site.
Technology-wise, the basic design is not that complicated. The most complex part of it is having a tool that allows you to export the information as an Excel spreadsheet.
What is interesting, though, is that teachers groups and even the Louisiana School Board Association opposed the bill. Here is a screenshot of email sent out to local school boards in the state.
The email says nothing about the cost being a burden or that the setup would be difficult. They simply say school boards should ask for an exemption or oppose it.
This matters a great deal. Louisiana, a largely red state, is led by a Democratic governor who opposes transparency in school boards at a time when parents across the country are getting more involved and demanding more transparency from their local districts on what is happening in their kids’ classrooms.
Edwards’ has two staunch allies: trial lawyers and teachers’ unions, and the latter have been a major part of his governance. He has “raised” teacher pay by the most meager amounts to make unions happy (but not really bring the state in line with salaries in comparable southern states), and he frequently went to war with the previous Superintendent of Education, John White – an avid supporter of teacher accountability and school choice.
He opposes school board transparency because the school boards and the unions don’t want to be transparent. They don’t want to be accountable. They, like so many of these elected officials and bureaucrats across the country, think they that because they were put into their position, they are the experts and people should listen to them, even though it’s the people who put them into their positions in the first place and fund those positions.
School boards are local governments, and should be made accountable for every dollar spent, every curriculum chosen, and every decision made. Parents of students in the school systems should know what is happening in their kids’ classrooms. If Edwards and the school boards want to fight against government transparency, that should make us fight even harder to demand and push for it.