FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 06/06/2011
ZEDLER: IMPROVE K-12 EFFICIENCY THROUGH FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY
AUSTIN - Last week, Gov. Rick Perry called the 82nd Legislature into the 1st Called Session, or "Special Session," to address several legislative issues. In response to a goal set forth in the governor's proclamation, which includes "measures that will allow school districts to operate more efficiently," Rep. Bill Zedler (Arlington), who previously served as vice chairman of the House Committee on Education, filed House Bill 66 today. This legislation will make school districts in Texas be more accountable to taxpayers by having key financial information posted online, including their budget, financial report, and check registers.
"This is a common sense measure. Texans have the right to know where their tax dollars are being spent," Zedler said.
In 2010, the Texas Public Policy Foundation issued a study, Examining Decades of Growth in K-12 Education; A Close Look at Spending and Achievement Trends, which found that the "United States spends more money on public education (7.4 percent of GDP) than the average of 30 developed nations (6.1 percent of GDP)." However, public disclosure of expenditures is not often readily available or is difficult for the average taxpayer to decipher. One of the report's recommendations is to "Make education spending more transparent at the state and local level."
"There's no doubt about it, greater transparency tends to lead to great efficiencies and cost savings for taxpayers. Many districts are already doing this, and we ought to commend them. For example, Burleson ISD, which is partially in my district, received a 'Gold Scorecard' from the Texas comptroller for placing their budget, financial report, and check register online. It is long overdue for all districts to provide this information and be accountable to the public," Zedler said.
House Bill 66 additionally calls on the school district to submit a letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that provides an overview of how they achieved compliance with the transparency measure, as well as report any costs involved. A school district may be exempt from the requirement if they submit a letter to TEA indicating that compliance with the provisions could not be achieved, including the reason(s) why and the results of any cost analysis performed.
As an aid to school districts, and other governmental entities, the comptroller of public accounts provides assistance with implementing transparency initiatives at the "Texas Transparency" section of the Window on State Government (www.TexasTransparency.org) website, and provides tiered awards for achieving certain benchmarks.
House Bill 66 now awaits referral by Speaker Joe Straus (San Antonio) to a committee of the Texas House for further consideration.