Sunday, February 22, 2009

Missouri School Board Spending Secrets

The Columbia Daily Tribune recently ran a report of the Missouri School Board purposely keeping the public in the dark about important money issues, especially at the association's annual forum.

Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson even praised his school board for not paying close attention to the district’s spending habits. Board members are welcome to talk about long-term goals, he said, but shouldn’t get into details of the day-to-day spending."

Independence has thousands of budget codes that school board members “don’t want to know,” he bragged. And, while board members are welcome to ask about district bills in private, they shouldn’t do it at a public meeting, Hinson advised. Apparently, there are "more important things to do at board meetings" than scrutinize district expenditures.

“The board doesn’t get involved in the daily operation of the school district, absolutely not,” Hinson said. “If they did, I wouldn’t work there.”

Shortly after Hinson spoke, Rick Nobles, a consultant with Patron Insights, urged school leaders to be vague when trying to get voters to approve bond issues or tax increases. For instance, he said, rather than telling district patrons that bond money would be used to add six classes, tell them the money would ease overcrowding. Patrons just don’t want to be beat over the head with details, he said.

Among Nobles' advice: Don't tell voters "it's for the children," he said. "That doesn't pull heartstrings the way you think it will."

This is absolutely unacceptable! The public deserves to know specifically how their taxpayer money is being used! This lack of openness just makes everyone assume they have something to hide. Education dollars need to be accounted for!

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