Why is this a big deal? It is a big deal because transparency in governance as described in California’s Brown Act is meant to be the prime directive in how school boards should conduct business. The Brown Act is a law that essentially states that school boards and other public agencies in California need to conduct the people’s business openly. In the case of Race to the Top, legal opinions opined that board action was not required to sign the agreement, but the California School Boards Association advised local school districts to secure board approval in order to comply with state law. It just becomes worrisome and a conflict when new legislation, contracts, and board actions are crafted to bypass the public scrutiny.
Disregard for transparency in governance leads to justification for all kinds of attempts to bypass the public scrutiny. Look at the above image of board item 8.10 of the April 20th board meeting agenda. The title of the board item is PTA Membership Drive. It is well described. The idea was popular among the board members. Helping to expand the enrollment of PTA membership sounds like a good idea. The funding source, however, was not acceptable. Most of the board was uncomfortable with taking $2400 already allocated per school from a Reading and Math grant to buy incentives for a PTA membership drive. It sounded like a school would lose its $2400 if it did not reach its PTA membership drive goal. It was tabled with a 3-2 vote. The idea behind tabling the item was to find a different funding source.
Click on the image for a closer look
These types of practices are not good examples of transparency in governance. Avoiding the public scrutiny is not how we should do business.
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California Government Code – Brown Act
The First Amendment Project – Brown Act
The Brown Act