Last year, lawmakers introduced legislation calling for an online check register in each school district. This low-cost high-tech method of releasing spending ledgers, credit card statements and check copies was rejected by secretive “public educators” who want free reign over public funds.
Now, the Policy Council has filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request to learn the details of that spending. While each district can request some minimal compensation for the filing and coping costs associated with the inquiry, Policy Council staffers were shocked when they received replies from throughout the state:
Despite the legislature’s clear intent to make public records available at low cost, the charges quoted by school districts of similar size and budget varied substantially. Responses for identical records requests were as follows:
* 13 districts quoted more than $10,000 for expense records
* 10 districts quoted $1,000 or less for the same request
* The average cost of each district response was $9,818
Greenwood County School District 52 had the highest quote, demanding $217,192. The district justified this amount by claiming 40 hours of staff time plus paper copy expenses. After discounting 10,000 copies at 25 cents per page, labor amounts to $5,367 per hour. That equals an annual salary of more than $10.7 million.
Greenwood 52 has 1,597 students and $14.7 million in total expenditures. For comparison, Florence County School District 5 is nearly identical in size and budget with 1,583 students and $14.8 million in total expenditures. Florence 5 quoted $464 as the cost of providing identical public records. That is more than 467 times less than the Greenwood 52 quote.
More details and a district-by-district breakdown in the charges here.