School funds and “transparency”

I’ve received a report from an Oakland mom who says the principal at her kid’s school has refused to let parents or teachers look at the budget. The mother said the budget in question was for the current year, not the one being developed for 2009-10.

Hmmm… Last I checked, public school budgets were a matter of public record.

What is the process at your school for accessing this information? Have others faced similar difficulties? Do any schools post budget details online?

UPDATE: I don’t have a school update, but Oakland school board member Jody London is holding a public town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Santa Fe Elementary School to talk about Oakland Unified’s budget process, how state funding works, and how local schools are dealing with the budget cuts. Dinner and childcare are provided, according to the flier. For more information, contact London at jody.london@ousd.k12.ca.us, or at 459-0667.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Catherine

    With a kids in both JM and Montera, I know the JM School Site Council now has control of their funds – the former principal prepared the budget to spend the funds and the GATE funds. Now all funds are reviewed by parents and there is complete discussion – disagreement as well – but everyone has input and knows how the funds are spent.

    I wish the same were true with my Montera student.

  • harlemmoon

    Yes, public school budgets are most definitely public record. So are salaries, construction contracts and a slew of other things. All you have to do is ask. Failure to produce a public document could lead to a hefty fine.
    If that report by the parent is true, than the principal is in violation of the law.
    What school is this and why is the principal allegedly refusing to provide the budget?

  • Katy Murphy

    I didn’t have a chance to check with the principal at the school in question before I posted this. I’ll post further details after I have more information.

    In the meantime, I’m curious to know what the practices at other schools are in terms of budget transparency. I wonder how many people take the time to seek out the information, anyway.

  • Former OUSD parent

    If you want any OUSD information, send a letter to Edgar Rakestraw at OUSD HQ, using the phrase “pursuant to the California Public Records Act Sections 6250 et seq. of the California Government Code, he will get you the information within ten days for the cost of copies.

    Principals are often nervous about releasing budgets because the budgets show their salaries and those of teachers. However, if you want the information you have the right to it, and they have to give it up. Sometimes principals forget they are public employees.

    Also if you look at the school site plans, on-line, or at the school office — where they should be kept and available to the public — you can trace the $ducats$ there.

  • Ann

    I’ve sent an email request to the Pleasanton Unified School District citing the California Public Records Act. Among items requested – copies of expense reports for PUSD administrators. The email was sent on 3/31 – no response yet that my email was even received.

    Will keep you posted.

  • Katy Murphy

    Good luck!

  • Former OUSD parent

    For Ann:

    Go visit the Office of Pleasanton Unified and flash them the Cal Public Records Act. By not telling you for thier delay, they are violating the ten day rule in Section 6253(c). Here is the link (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=gov&group=06001-07000&file=6250-6270)

    Below is the edited cite:

    Govt Code Section 6253. (a) Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.

    (b).. .

    (c) Each agency, upon a request for a copy of records, shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the
    person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefor. In unusual circumstances, the time limit prescribed in this section may be extended by written notice by the head of the agency or his or her designee to the person making the request,
    setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than 14 days. When
    the agency dispatches the determination, and if the agency determines that the request seeks disclosable public records, the agency shall state the estimated date and time when the records will be made available.

  • Clarence Boyd

    For Katy,

    I am a long time Oakland Public Schools parent and current community member of Montera’s School Site Council. As a regular attendee at Montera’s School Site Council meetings, I must respectfully disagree with the assertion of the parent who alleged that the Principal refused to let parents or teachers look at the budget. This is simply not true.

    First of all, the Categorical Budget, which is the domain of the school site council, is available at the school site council meetings. Our meetings have also been attended on three separate occasions by O.U.S.D. support personnel to further explain the categorical budget. In addition, the Principal even made available for review by the SSC, including the teacher members, the General Purpose budget, which is not the domain of the SSC. Montera’s entire budget, therefore, including the Categorical Budget and the General Purpose budget has been made available for review and comment at SSC meetings. At the most recent SSC meeting of 3/31/09 the SSC voted and approved the current Categorical Budget. Please note that all SSC meetings are public meetings that are publicly posted and agendized 72 hours prior to the meeting. Please also note that any member of the public may go to the Principal’s offce and request that the budget be reviewed. Of course any member of the public, including any parent and any teacher are free to attend the public SSC meetings.

    I would caution those reading this blog not to jump to unfair conclusions until you have thoroughly researched the motivations behind the original charge. There are other complex issues in play in this situation that are beyond the scope of this blog. Many of these issues are disturbing and ugly.

    What must be kept in mind is that the SSC’s charge is to ensure an equitable and unbiased education for ALL children. Student achievement is and must remain the central goal of the SSC and indeed the entire school. Personnel issues are not the charge of the SSC.

    Finally, I would like to invite any interested citizens to attend our Montera School Site council meetings, which are held on the last Tuesday of every month the school year at 6:00pm. Of course you can also contact the Principal’s office for any updates regarding SSC meetings.

    C. Boyd

  • oakland principal

    As a principal I was accused of this by a group of teachers, unfortunately they spread this accusation to some parents. Luckly, I had proof that the budget was shared and reviewed at SSC this year and the year before. The parent should aproach the principal directly and ask to see the budget if she has an interest. In addition, she should never stand on rumor but should go to the direct source for confirmation.
    Most principals want to work with parents and teachers to support the greater good of the students.

  • Catherine

    Oakland Principal:

    Would you please share your entire budget with any parent who requests a copy? I need to see the entire school budget to clearly understand what comes into the SSC budget. A whole picture is much easier to see than a partial one.

    I would be happy to make an appointment to get a copy of the budget. I have asked in the school office, but was only told to come to an SSC meeting where I would be given a copy of the SSC budget. May I have both? When can I pick them up?