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Most districts and charters comply with Idaho transparency laws

The student athlete weight room at Middleton High School.

The student athlete weight room at Middleton High School. A review of 163 school district websites has found that nearly 72 percent of Idaho districts and charter schools are in compliance or are close to complying with transparancy laws on expenditures, contracts, and audits, and other information. File photo

Nearly 72 percent of Idaho districts and charter schools are in compliance or close to complying with Idaho’s transparency laws, according to an annual review of 163 websites conducted by Idaho Education News.

The number of websites in compliance with state law has grown significantly since EdNews began investigating websites three years ago, the education news website reported. This year, 83 districts are in full compliance. When EdNews first reviewed websites in 2015, only 14 websites were in full compliance. The number grew to 50 in 2016.

Idaho law requires districts to post online expenditures, contracts, strategic plans, labor agreements, audits and monthly budgets. While about half of all sites were in full compliance this summer, another 34 were missing just one state-required item.

The Wilder School District was one of the nearly up-to-date websites, missing only financial statements from over the summer. Superintendent Jeff Dillon said the lapse in posting was because he’s without a business manager. Small districts are more likely to be out of compliance and administrators say it’s because of staffing challenges.

The Boise School District regularly posts budgets and audits on its website as is required by Idaho law.
“We have no problem with the state requirement. It helps hold us accountable, but we’re down a person and my priority is making payroll,” said Dillon, a candidate for state superintendent.

There is no penalty in the statute for noncompliance and State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra has said it is not the State Department of Education’s responsibility to enforce state laws.

Most all of Idaho districts and charters had some level of information on their websites, but if they were out of compliance it was because of lacking or incomplete data. Nearly 90 percent of districts and charters improved their websites in an effort to make school practices more transparent for parents, employees and taxpayers. Fewer than five websites were drastically out of compliance, according to the EdNews review.

Idaho codes 33-357 and 33-320 require districts and charters to post the following items and update them regularly:

All expenditures, including the names and addresses of those receiving money.
A description of the expenditure.
Any contract related to an expenditure, including teacher and vendor contracts.
Annual budgets.
Current master labor agreements.
Strategic plans.
The budget and all expenditures are to be updated monthly, archived and made “easily accessible.”

After EdNews revealed widespread non-compliance in 2015, district and charter leaders have made greater efforts to comply and sought assistance from EdNews and the Idaho School Boards Association.

 

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