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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ind. Gov't. - "Show us the IPS numbers"

Last year this time the ILB had several entries under the heading "The Indianapolis Public School Board adopted the district's $448 million budget this week, but don't ask board members for too much detail -- they never saw the actual budget before voting on it."

This year the budget is higher, $509, but the facts are the same. As the Indianapolis Star editorializes today:

In a 5-2 vote Thursday that took place after only 15 minutes of discussion, the board approved a $509 million 2011 budget for the state's largest school district. The two board members who voted against the proposal complained, and rightly so, that they weren't provided with adequate time or details to make an informed decision.

It's not a new complaint. Longtime member Kelly Bentley, a past president of the board and a well-regarded leader in the community, objected last year to a lack of transparency in how the budget was put together and reviewed. IPS Superintendent Eugene White dismissed Bentley's concerns.

White was similarly dismissive this year after Annie Roof, who took office July 1, asked for the district's entire budget to be posted online so the public could review it ahead of the board's vote. Instead, a four-page summary was posted.

"A board member can ask for it, but I work for the whole board," White said. "The whole board didn't ask for it."

Actually, White, although hired by the board, works for the public. And members of the public have a right to review a document that details exactly what they're paying for.

As elected leaders, board members also have an obligation to dig into the details of the budget. That's almost impossible to do, however, given the speed of the process and the lack of information provided to board members. "From the beginning, I haven't felt like the process has been slow enough or transparent enough for me," Roof said.

The other "No'' vote also came from a new board member who said she was disappointed with the process. "We need all the information so we can make the best decisions for our children,'' said Samantha Adair-White, a member of the board for less than two months.

IPS' leaders are entrusted with more than a half-billion dollars a year to run the school system. Even more important, they're entrusted with providing the best education possible to about 30,000 children. Those leaders must be amenable to public review of their work.

Yet, something is seriously wrong when even members of the School Board can't get information they want and need.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 28, 2010 12:44 PM
Posted to Indiana Government