|Open Records Complaint Filed Against Wichita School District
District Refuses to Provide Student Achievement Results for 2012 School Year
|September 11, 2012 - Wichita - Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) filed a formal complaint today with Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Folston, stating that USD 259 Wichita is in violation of the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). KPI requested the preliminary student achievement data that districts involved in the Gannon school lawsuit provided and discussed in court. Hutchinson and Kansas City are processing the information, and Dodge City already complied; only Wichita has refused to provide the information.|
"Apparently the lawyers suing Kansans for $2.1 billion more in school funding are entitled to student achievement data, but not taxpayers," said KPI president Dave Trabert.
In denying the Open Records request, USD 259 cited K.S.A. 45-221 which reads, ""Certain records are not required to be open...(a) Except to the extent disclosure is otherwise required by law, a public agency shall not be required to disclose: (20) Notes, preliminary drafts, research data in process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendation or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed, except that this exception shall not apply when such records are publicly cited or identified in an open meeting or in an agenda of an open meeting..." (emphasis added).
USD 259 does not deny that student achievement data was publicly cited. Instead, in rejecting KPI's KORA request, on September 10th USD 259 wrote, "The context for K.S.A. 45-221(a)(20) as it pertains to a school district is an open meeting of the board or a board agenda. The use of 'or' instead of a comma ties both 'publicly cited' and 'identified' to 'an open meeting.' Thus, our interpretation of the statute is that the exception does not apply when preliminary draft records are publicly cited in an open meeting and does apply when preliminary draft records are publicly cited in other venues such as court proceedings."
Open Records Violations Becoming "Epidemic"
A recent story in the Kansas City Star quoted Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, who said Open Records violations have become epidemic.
Trabert added, "We couldn't agree more." KPI had to have the District Attorneys in Wyandotte County and Douglas County intervene to compel the release of public information from the Kansas City and Lawrence school districts. Tomorrow, KPI goes before the Sedgwick County Commission to ask Commissioners to require the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition to make transaction-level details regarding their expenditure of taxpayer funds open for public inspection; speaking through their attorney, GWEDC has denied an Open Records request submitted by Kansas Policy Institute.
"Kansans have a right to know how the money they pay in taxes is being spent," said KPI president Dave Trabert. "This is about transparency, accessibility and, ultimately, it is about accountability. Government's open defiance of Open Records laws is a problem that needn't exist and it is going to take strong leadership at the local and state level to put more power in the hands of taxpayers and less in the hands of government bureaucrats," concluded Trabert.
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Kansas Policy Institute is an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans. Our work centers on state and local economic policy with primary emphasis on education, fiscal policy and health care. We empower citizens, legislators and other government officials with objective research and creative ideas to promote a low-tax, pro-growth environment that preserves the ability of governments to provide high quality services.
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