By Ralph Schwartz
While the study included the largest counties and cities, I didn’t see any references to Bellingham or Whatcom in my quick glance. In general, states do a better job than counties and cities, which do a better job than school districts, at being open about their business.
Scores were based in part on whether a government posted its budget, its meeting schedule and agendas, contracts with private individuals/firms, and contact information for *all* officials (on these last two points, I give both Bellingham and Whatcom a low grade).
Also factored in was how easy a government website was to use.
In my experience, school district websites are in fact the worst. In 10 years of reporting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a district post its budget online. Some districts, especially the small ones, don’t post (or make it very hard to find) something as basic as the phone number for individual schools (never mind phone numbers and emails for teachers). School levies make up a significant chunk of our property taxes; I haven’t seen districts post how those levy dollars are being used (except maybe during levy election season).
It has always seemed to me that school districts view themselves less as governments and more as the glue that keeps all the schools, students, staff and parents together. That’s the impression their websites leave, anyhow.
But of course, schools are publicly funded, and the deciders at school districts are publicly elected. For those of us with children, arguably their decisions are more significant than those of any other government in the world.
In short, I’d like to see the school districts bring up their grades.